School’s Out – Forever?

By Judy Berman

The bass in the music is hard to ignore. It’s rocking the walls and floors.

Teens are jamming to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and screaming the lyrics: “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”

I can relate. When I was in high school, I didn’t like the rules or being told what to do. Maybe that’s why some of my friends called me “Rebel,” although I don’t recall leading any protests or any subversive behavior. Still, I’d love to go back in time and, maybe, have a do-over for some parts of my teen years.

In S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders,” the main character didn’t want any one bossing him around, either. But he placed a value on education.

In one scene, Pony and his older brother, Darry, are arguing. Pony threatens to drop out of school like his brother, Soda, did.

Soda tells Pony that he’s “happy working in a gas station with cars. You’d never be happy doing something like that.”

Pony, who is 14, realizes his brother is right.

Some of my seventh-grade students have this figured out. They are planning for what they want to do after high school. If they are forced to take a detour – as I was – I hope their goals and plans are not permanently derailed.

As my graduation day drew near, I was eager to test my wings and leave the nest.  I couldn’t wait to begin the next step in my journey.

There was just one small catch. My grades weren’t all that hot. Would I be able to get into a college? I’d asked my English teacher if she’d write a recommendation for me when I applied to a college. I was delighted when she said yes.

So, imagine my shock, when I was turned down – not by one college of nursing, but by three. My Mom called to find out why. It wasn’t the grades that did me in. It was the English teacher’s “recommendation.” She said that I “didn’t have the stick-to-itiveness to make it through college.”

Infuriating. An English teacher certainly knows that “recommend” means to say something positive. Why didn’t she just say “no” when I asked? Crushed, but not defeated, I decided I’d go to a business school.

A few years later, I did go to college part-time and approached education with a new attitude. In the end, I have to admit, that teacher did me a favor.

I have the highest regard for those in the nursing profession, but I wasn’t cut out to be one of them. That discovery was like a burst of sunlight filtering thru a dingy rooftop window.

Illumination coincided with my college biology professor’s request that we dissect a frog. My partner handled the dirty work, and I transferred to courses that paved the way for me to meet people, go to exotic and strange locals, and to write: first as a radio news reporter and later as a reporter for a newspaper.

My experiences disproved another rock song as well, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” also known as “School’s Out for Summer.”

Education doesn’t stop when you leave school. If you’re doing it right, you’re constantly learning to keep pace with changes at work and elsewhere in life.

Best wishes graduates. As one phase ends, another magical part of your journey begins. The world really is your oyster.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: Pink Floyd, “The Wall”

Video: Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”

  1. High school…too many important decisions must be made by little people not yet ready to make life altering decisions. Like you, my direction was guided by finances and lack of life knowledge. When I graduated in the 60s, you were either a nurse (good lord, I couldn’t do that!), a schoolteacher (not much patience for that either) or a secretary (which was where I started). Then I went to college on my company’s dime and moved up the ladder into professional positions ending up in human resources, specifically training (see, I was a teacher after all!) Today’s kids are much better equipped with options and experiences. My niece’s granddaughter is going to school for forensics. Wasn’t even around when I was a kid.

    1. In some ways, I think kids are expected to make life-changing decisions way too early. I didn’t know what I wanted to be until after I took a few courses in college. By that time, I had already worked in a bank, an insurance agency (only for 6 months), and a medical library. Kate, I wish that I had some of the opportunities in school – like your niece’s granddaughter – to take courses that would have related to my interests. Fortunately, it’s never too late to pursue what you want.

  2. Hi Judy,

    Alice Cooper’s Schools out is an iconic album and has so beautifully survived the decades, hasn’t it?

    What is it that creates so many rebels in High School pass-outs? Is it the need of the child to protect his newly found turf? Or is it the auto- response of adults to press the control buttons needlessly?

    As I look around I seem to notice better understanding between the generations and that is a welcome development.


    1. Shakti, I feel the same way about Alice Cooper’s song. It hasn’t aged. It’s still relevant.
      About the rebels in high school and middle school. I think they want to test the limits. It’s the first time they’ve had the freedom to move about the school, classes in different rooms, different teachers and personalities. Sometimes, the adults – as parents and teachers, administrators – seem too restrictive or say “no” more than “yes.” Teaching 7th graders, I’m not sure they’ve changed all that much from when I was in school. But I could be wrong.

  3. I so agree, Judy. In fact I would go so far as to say that some of my best learning has been done since I left formal education. I am passionate about lifelong learning. I think it keeps you young.

    1. I feel that I learned more from some of the books I read than from the textbooks we had in school. But I was an avid reader – read about 100 books a year. They covered a wide range of subjects and genres. Some of my students are amazed that I know some of the pop culture figures, movies, music and books. They say their parents or other adults don’t. You’re right, Kate, being open to new information keeps us from getting stagnant.

  4. Funny how I could wait for school to be out as a kid…and forever too. Now that I’m adult, I’d jump at the opportunity to go for even more education.

    1. I hear you, Deb. There were times when I was an indifferent student in some subjects in high school. When I was going to college on my own dime, my motivation and interest certainly did a 180. I became very focused because I had a goal in mind. And, it was fun learning new things.

  5. I was kind of a rebel too but now I do miss those school days where our worries were passing and what activities to do next. I do wish the same for all graduates when you wrote, “Best wishes graduates. As one phase ends, another magical part of your journey begins. The world really is your oyster.” My son’s class is ending soon too and then it’s Summer fun for us. Can’t wait!

    1. It all goes by too quickly. Especially for me now that I’m teaching. It’s hard to believe that the school year is about to end (late May for us). Have a great summer with your son. We look forward to more time with our two grandchildren.

  6. I agree, education is a lifelong affair. But we didn’t know that during those heady days did we? 🙂

    1. You are so right, Madhu. Some of my high school teachers would be shocked to see how much interest I have in learning now. They’d be even more stunned to learn I’m now a teacher. 😆

  7. Well said, Judy!! I too remember how much I used to hate to wake up early and go to tuition. And I also remember if I hated something the most during school days then it was to study during the nights of winter when most of the elder people used to sleep.
    Now at this point of time, when I look back I see those were the best days of my life. And learning is a process which never stops until this journey of life end. It starts from the pages of book and continues with the learning from people, places and experiences.
    Great post, Judy!!

    1. I don’t recall how many hours I put in for homework, but I do remember occasionally cramming for tests. Still, you’re right, Arindam. Compared to the demands of the workplace and life, school was a piece of cake. I did enjoy going to college even if it was part-time.

  8. I like your attitude regarding your teacher’s less-than-stellar recommendation. I think your forgiveness is very commendable. I still think that the teacher should have had the courage to tell you that s/he couldn’t give you a positive recommendation. I know if they could have, some of my high school teachers would have loved to put the kibosh on my education. They tried hard enough in high school.

    1. Maybe it’s my contrarian attitude. When someone says, “you can’t do that.” My response is: “Oh, yeah? Watch me.” There is so much more satisfaction in doing well than in remaining angry. Healthier, too. Glad you overcame any stumbling blocks thrown your way. Thanks for your comments.

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