That'll teach you


When I entered elementary school in Tampa, Florida, I flunked my first gifted enrollment test, and had to take it again. Nerves? Socioeconomic status? It wasn’t the most embarrassing moment of my scholastic career; that was likely the day I fell down a hill during cross country practice. But I was invested in my education before I knew what sort of shape it would take, and I remember feeling that my first test didn’t bode well for the future.

This year’s back to school issue, in five lessons:

Sullivan calls UVA first years "strongest" ever.

What free lunch numbers mean for gifted access.

Latino students pack county classrooms.

Cognitive Science Professor Daniel Willingham knows you hate school. He also knows why.

This year’s most exciting courses at Jefferson’s university.


Now, I know that every element of my personal experience contributed to how I learned. I needed to be invested in my classes, which means they needed to engage me (page 16). If they didn’t, then I could tune them out like bad music. Fortunately, I thought calculus was pretty cool.

When I moved to Virginia, I left a city where Hispanics were roughly 20 percent of the population for a county where they represented less than 5 percent. I had good language classes, but fewer opportunities to use the skills I’d learned. Now, Albemarle County’s Cale Elementary is one-quarter Latino (page 18), and the county is increasingly bilingual, which gives me a great chance to brush up on my vocabulary.

At UVA (see below), I found traditions I liked and a few I could do without (the small crowd that shouted “not gay” during the football games, for instance). After graduation, I had to get to know Charlottesville as a resident, rather than a student—an act that felt like an education, but took place outside of a classroom, which I hadn’t been without for 17 years.

Fail or pass, no test is as complex as any single student. Last week, thousands of city and county students returned to school, while UVA students reinhabited their dorms, apartments, classrooms and favorite Corner bars. And for the rest of us, life got a little faster.