Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Fourth Grade

For years, there has been a poster floating around that highlights all the great things we learned as kindergarten students. There are a lot of great things on this poster (“Play fair. Don’t hit people.”) but I have to say that my most profound school year was fourth grade.

My grandmother with me as a baby

My grandmother with me as a baby

My first major lesson came early in the school year. For the first time in my life I faced the reality of death. My grandmother, who I adored, was diagnosed with cancer and gradually faded to skin and bones. The treatment was no longer fighting the cancer and her body was shutting down. Over Labor Day weekend, my family decided it was necessary to gather the clan at the Minnesota homestead. Within hours of us arriving, we had all had the chance to say our goodbyes and my grandmother passed away. For the first time in my life, I was faced with losing someone close to me. For the first time, I saw my dad — my rock — crying. It was an eye-opening experience for me, but at the time I didn’t realize how much I would learn. It was during this long weekend with the family that I found out how important my extended group of relatives are to my life. No matter how much time or distance separates the clan, we are always there for each other. It’s the unconditional love of family that has helped me traverse the maze of life. For that I am eternally grateful.

During fourth grade is also when I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. One assignment we were given was to write a report about a career that interested us. We were to interview someone in that chosen profession as well as research what it would take for us to do that for a living. I chose to talk with my neighbor about his job as PR director for the state’s vocational education program. During our chat, he told me about his daily activities and I was fascinated. I then went on to the library and found out about degree programs and various other paths that would get me into a PR career. From fourth grade on, I took every opportunity to write, participate in school activities that would lead me into a journalism degree program and eventually into PR. In 2001, I had the chance, while working at a PR firm, to participate in an RFP process for my former mentor. While my firm was not selected, it did allow me to tell him “thank you” for his involvement in my career.

Fourth grade may have been just another year for most people, but it was a life-changing year for me. What about you? What year had the biggest impact on your life?

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