My father-in-law, Jim Zitzman, was a longtime educator, and together with the three Rs, he taught students about building character. Excerpted below is a 1992 farewell memo to Oak Ridge's Robertsville Junior High School, in which he discussed this effort.
TO: RJHS Staff
FROM: Jim Zitzman
DATE: December 8, 1992
. . .
As a component of my character-building program, I put a sign on the chalkboard every day which the students copy in their neat and well-organized notebooks. Now and then I give them a few extra credit points for their collection, which they promise faithfully to someday show to their grandchildren. Only a small percentage of the signs are original. Most are stolen from others who admit having stolen them themselves.
In general the signs include observations, instructions, and suggestions to help the kids mend their evil ways and lead a happy and rewarding life. Sometimes we devote a few minutes of class time to discussion of the daily sign.
. . .
For no extra charge I am attaching a listing of some of my Signs on the Wall. Feel free to use any or all. I would be glad to receive suggestions for additional signs.
MR. Z’S SIGNS ON THE WALL
Mr. Z’s signs on the wall will include observations, instructions, and suggestions to help you mend your evil ways and lead a happy and rewarding life.
1. Be always kind and true.
2. Compliment three people every day.
3. Have a firm handshake.
4. Hold the door for the person behind you.
5. Look people in the eye.
6. Don’t use drugs and stay away from people who do.
7. Say “Thank you” a lot.
8. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
9. Sing in the shower.
10. Be the first to say “Hello”.
11. Return all things you borrow.
12. Stand at attention with your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem.
13. Put lots of little marshmallows in your hot chocolate.
14. Call your grandma at least every day.
15. Put the cap back on the toothpaste.
16. Take out the garbage without being told.
17. Never refuse homemade brownies.
18. Keep a tight reign on your temper.
19. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
20. Be kind to your little brothers and sisters and enjoy their company.
21. Surprise loved ones with little unexpected gifts.
22. Learn to make something beautiful with your hands.
23. Admit your mistakes.
24. Avoid sarcastic remarks.
25. Respect your probation officer.
26. Learn to identify local birds, wildflowers, and trees.
27. Do battle against prejudice and discrimination wherever you find it.
28. Memorize your social security number.
29. Resist the temptation to watch MTV.
30. Show respect for your teachers.
31. Tell your parents how awesome they are and that you love them.
32. Don’t smoke or use tobacco in any form.
33. Learn to drive a stick shift.
34. Always accept an outreached hand.
35. Keep secrets.
36. Flush the toilet, then leave the seat in the down position.
37. Turn off the television at dinnertime.
38. Skip one meal each week and give the money to charity.
39. Leave everything a little better than you found it.
40. Remember people’s names.
41. Demand excellence and be willing to pay for it.
42. Ride a bike
43. Learn CPR.
44. Keep a flashlight under your bed and in the glove box of your car.
45. Refill ice cube trays.
46. Remember that all news is biased
47. Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
48. Don’t do anything stupid.
49. Have good posture. Walk with purpose and confidence.
50. Do something to light up another life.
51. Don’t watch violent TV shows and don’t buy the products that advertise them.
52. Learn how to type. Know the keyboard.
53. Sing to your teddy bear every night.
54. Answer the telephone with enthusiasm and energy in your voice. Identify yourself.
55. Don’t carry a grudge.
56. Be suspicious of all politicians.
57. Learn to recognize the inconsequential, then ignore it.
58. Fold your towel and hang it up, or put it away properly with other dirty laundry.
59. Be your mom’s best friend.
60. Never take actions when you’re angry.
61. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
62. Drink low-fat milk.
63. Recycle old paper, bottles, and cans.
64. Save a Canadian forest. Stop writing love notes in school.
65. Plant flowers every spring.
66. Say “Please” a lot.
67. Plan a tree ever year on your birthday.
68. Write thank-you notes promptly.
69. Show respect for police officers and fire fighters.
70. Adopt-A-Hall -- select a section of Robertsville hallway or campus and keep it clean.
71. Slow dance.
72. Never use profanity. Not only that, don’t cuss.
73. Never bet on the other man’s tricks.
74. Pay your debts on time.
75. Read the Bill of Rights.
76. Make it a habit to do something nice for people who’ll never know.
77. Never cheat.
78. Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond price.
79. Never take candy from a stranger.
80. Stop and read roadside historical markers.
81. Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly.
82. Know how to change a tire.
83. Learn how to tie a necktie and a bowtie.
84. Learn the capitals of all fifty states.
85. Have crooked teeth straightened.
86. Keep your watch five minutes fast.
87. Join the slow pitch baseball team.
88. Take someone bowling for kids’ sake.
89. Learn to ride a bike safely.
90. Sing in a choir.
91. Fly Old Glory on all national holidays.
92. Resist temptation to put cute messages on your answering machine.
93. Strive for excellence, not perfection.
94. Take time to smell the roses.
95. Use seatbelts.
96. Let people know what you stand for, and what you won’t stand for.
97. Have regular medical and dental check-ups.
98. Be punctual and insist on it in others.
99. Avoid negative people.
100. Be original.
101. Be neat.
102. Be kinder than necessary.
103. Use less salt.
104. Eat less red meat.
105. Never make the same mistake once.
106. Have a friend who owns a pickup truck.
107. Improve your performance by improving your attitude.
108. Don’t accept good enough as good enough.
109. Do more than is expected.
110. Share the credit.
111. Turn on the headlights when it begins to rain.
112. Don’t tailgate.
113. Conduct family fire drills. Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of fire.
114. Do it right the first time.
115. Look for opportunities to make people feel important.
116. Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.
117. Don’t interrupt.
118. Don’t rain on other people’s parades.
119. Be open to new ideas.
120. Be prepared. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
121. Give thanks before every meal.
122. Take a kid to the zoo.
123. Learn a card trick.
124. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
125. Save ten percent of what you earn.
126. Don’t drive on slick tires.
127. Don’t be called out on strikes -- go down swinging.
128. Be alert for opportunities to show praise and appreciation.
129. Commit yourself to quality.
130. Become someone’s hero.
131. Marry only for love.
132. Count your blessings.
133. Call your mother.
134. Swing for the fence.