How Elementary School Makes You a Better Actor

Elementary school is all about pretending. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.

Every week we had to sit through an hour-long lesson on “guidance.” Guidance was basically like ethical skills class. I have still to figure out why they called it “guidance.” In guidance we learned the “friendship pledge” and how to make friends. (They told us you have to start with eye contact. I took this too seriously and have only recently broken the habit of staring creepily at people I want to be friends with.) It was the most boring hour of the week. Until the last week of elementary school when they told us you don’t have to be friends with everybody. I was speechless when they said that…

The guidance lessons would have been great, if they hadn’t been so boring. Basically all they were teaching us was how to pretend. How to pretend to get along with people we didn’t like, how to pretend to be sorry when we really weren’t, how to pretend to listen to a teacher talking about something you couldn’t care less about, how to pretend to enjoy things that we utterly hated. What normal kid wants to spend two hours sitting on the floor of a gymnasium listening to a bunch of out-of-tune drums? I think that may have contributed to my dislike of listening to music. (I’m getting better, I haven’t actually bought any music yet, but I can enjoy listening to it for a few minutes.)

We had to pretend to be happy it was someone’s birthday for other reasons than the fact that they would bring cookies. If you had to make a sincere birthday card for every person in a class, even people you don’t like, you would probably be cynical, too. We had to bring everybody cheap candy on valentine’s day. I had one teacher that said we didn’t have to bring candy for everybody, only the people we wanted to bring it to. That was amazing.

There were also those stupid group projects. I absolutely hate working in a group unless I am in charge. (And yes, being a director is on my list of possible careers.) Fun fact: Once I had to dress up as Samuel Adams for a group history project. Most unfortunately my group was so busy with the costume that we forget to study. So I had no idea what Samuel Adams actually did when they asked me the questions. I still don’t know what he did. Luckily I was wearing a weird hat, so I could start laughing a bit hysterically and they would move on the next question. (A+ on that report, by the way.)

If it hadn’t been for the gifted program where I could expose my cynical political side and get into debates with the three other people who cared about political debates I probably would have gone crazy. We also played wheel of fortune sometimes.

I also learned to pretend to feel sick to get out of gym class. (It was kickball. I hate kickball. I will write about kickball tomorrow.) And pretending to be sick to get out of music class. And pretending to be sick to get out of an assembly. Or maybe two…

Basically they taught me to hide my true feelings and pretend to be friendly to everyone. I was remarkably good at this. All the teachers thought I was this lovely, sweet, genuine girl who absorbed every mind-numbing sentence about friendship anyone said. Except the gifted program teacher.

Even if I did feel truly happy that it was someone’s birthday, I didn’t realize it because I had spent so much time covering up my feelings are pretending to be happy. (Think about it; approx. 20 birthdays a year, not counting summer birthdays, that is a lot of cards and fake “Happy Birthday!”s.)

There were the people who actually did absorb everything they said about friendship. I am very impressed by those people but I don’t think I will ever understand how their minds work. They were just so nice to everyone. It’s a bit amazing.

There was a big difference between my acting skills in 3rd ans 4th grade. I think by the time I got to 4th grade I realized, “Oh, sh*t, they really are serious, I need to pretend to be nicer!”

Anyway, maybe someday I will become the sweet, genuine person they always thought I was, but it not, I will be a very good comedy writer. So far it’s leaning towards comedy writer.




2 thoughts on “How Elementary School Makes You a Better Actor

  1. I love this. I have always hated when my children’s teachers referred to their classmates as their friends. There is a perfectly good word- CLASSMATES! Why not use that, instead of faking that everyone is friends? I made a point of telling my children they are not your friends. I did say you need to be civil and polite to everyone, but you do not have to like everyone. ( and you only have to be polite of they are polite to ou. If they are mean, all bets are off. I also tell my kids it’s ok to hit someone who hits you. A big no-no in schools!)

  2. Now, there are times in your life as a comedy writer that you will wish that Evil Aunt Lizabeth lived near you and in retrospect your ‘group report’ may be one of them.

    I would have had zero problem filling you in on Samuel Adams. Maybe even accidentally-on-purpose mixing a little Samuel Adams with Gomez Adams, Samuel L. Jackson, and Grizzley Adams. I’m pretty sure I envision making you memorize the governmental guidelines for nutritional content in and all things ale and reporting on that as well. That would have been the best report EVER and would have contributed mightily to your future Indie movie career.

    That’s just the kind of loving and supportive aunt I am. You’re welcome ;)

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