Makena Elliott doesn't remember everything she learned in kindergarten, but she can rattle off the rules.
Raise your hand.
Don't be a bully.
"And don't kiss boys!" she said, laughing.
Makena, 6, is entering first grade at Roosevelt School in Belleville. She took time out of her dwindling summer vacation to share her experiences and give advice to new kindergartners.
You'll also hear from a second-year high school student, a second-year college student, a second-year teacher and a second-year principal.
"(Freshman) need to have fun," said Tyler Green, 19, of Belleville, a sophomore at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
"College is like nothing else in your life," he said. "It should be a fun experience. But beyond that, you need to have your priorities straight, what you want to accomplish and what your goals are for the future."
Stay in the green lane
Makena is the daughter of Stacy and Steve Elliott and sister to 9-year-old Alyssa. She loved her first year of school and her teacher, Jayne Crews.
Makena noted that kindergartners get their very own desks. They take naps and play at recess.
"We did computers," she said. "We did games. We did art. I like painting and drawing. I drew cats, dogs, lions guinea pigs, horses (and) camels."
Even lunch was an adventure for Makena. Mom and Dad packed her koala lunchbox, but they weren't looking over her shoulder while she was eating in the cafeteria.
In class, Makena memorized the alphabet forward and backward and learned to sound out words, write complete sentences, add and subtract. She studied presidents, money, plants, holidays and patterns and went on field trips.
"We got to watch a movie, and we got to get wet with the hose (at a fire station)," Makena said. "And we went to a water park, and a bank."
Makena enjoyed spending time with her sixth-grade "book buddies," who helped with her reading.
Her main piece of advice to new kindergartners? Stay out of trouble. Her teacher kept track of student behavior by putting cars with their names in different traffic lanes.
"If you are being bad, your car goes to the yellow light," Makena said. "And if you're being really bad, you go to the red light. If you're good, you go to the green light.
"If you stay on green every day, you get to go to the treasure box on Friday. There's toys, bracelets and necklaces, hats, stuff like that."
Be a joiner
High school was an adjustment for John Collins, 15, of Collinsville. He had come from Good Shepherd Lutheran School, which has about 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grades.
Enrollment is nearly 2,000 at Collinsville High School, where he was a freshman last year.
"To go from such a small school to such a big school was sort of nerve-wracking, but it was exciting at the same time," he said.
John enjoyed making new friends and being more independent, choosing some of his own classes.
His best decision was getting involved in extra-curricular activities, such as golf, baseball, Latin club and student council.
"It allows you to get to know some of the students in your classes in a more-relaxed atmosphere," he said.
"If you play a fall sport, such as golf or football or soccer, you begin practicing in the summer. It's a great way to meet kids that will be in your classes before school even starts."
One of John's big discoveries last year was that it pays to actually study in study hall, instead of talking, sleeping or day-dreaming. You can finish homework and free up more time for recreation after school.
He warns freshmen against being too insecure to join clubs and organizations.
"One of the main misconceptions is that the upperclassmen are mean or not welcoming to the freshmen," he said. "For me, a lot of the upper classmen were my greatest resources for schoolwork, how to get from place to place and just the tips and tricks of high-school life."
Do your laundry
College opened up a whole new world for Tyler Green, who's majoring in music with an emphasis on vocal performance and music business at SIUE.
He likes meeting people outside his hometown of Belleville and just doing his own thing.
"I'm much happier in my classes because I'm enjoying what I'm learning about," he said. "You get to choose what you're learning about."
Tyler lives in a dorm on campus. Last year, he took time to get to know other students on his floor, which made it feel more like home.
Not so warm and fuzzy was going to the dining hall every day.
"There are lots of choices," he said. "But at some point, it all starts to taste the same, and that goes for any university. I missed eating at home and going out to eat more."
Tyler suggests freshmen get more bang for their buck by accepting help offered by advisers and other college staff and not being intimidated by professors.
Perhaps his biggest lesson as a freshman was learning to be more self-reliant.
"You can't rely on other people to get you through," he said. "That's not how college works, on anything from studying to laundry to eating three meals a day.
"Nobody's going to make you go to class. Nobody's going to tell you when it's time to do laundry. You just wake up one day, and you don't have any clean clothes."
Use common sense
Going solo in the classroom wasn't nearly as scary as Kristen Kienitz thought it would be.
The sixth-grade math and science teacher credited the staff at Millstadt Consolidated School for making her first year as painless as possible, particularly mentor Kathy Alt.
"(Other teachers) are your best resource," said Kristen, 24, of Belleville. "It's your position, but you're not alone."
Kristen worked briefly as a substitute teacher after graduating from Southeast Missouri State University. She landed the Millstadt job between her marriage and honeymoon with husband Jacob.
She quickly learned that students have different skills, motivations, behaviors and learning patterns.
"This year, I'll revamp everything," she said. "I'll try to make things more fun and engaging for the kids."
Kristen sent two students to the principal's office last year, but tried to handle other discipline herself. She'll probably adopt a slightly stricter management style this year.
"I consider myself a fun, easygoing teacher," she said. "The students at Millstadt are so great, they didn't take advantage of me too much. But there are things I can improve on."
On the other hand, Kristen believes in flexibility.
Toward the end of the year, she discovered the quote, "Zero tolerance cuts common sense out of the equation," and began displaying it on her desk.
"I think that's a perfect quote for teachers," she said. "There are rules, but you have to use common sense."
Be tough ... or not
Jeff Teasley had been a social studies teacher and girls volleyball coach at Lebanon High School for 12 years when he was tapped to become principal at Lebanon Elementary School last year.
He went from teaching skeptical teens about government, history and psychology to being a role model for more than 300 children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
"You've got all these little kids running around," said Jeff, 39, of Breese. "It's fun. They're still energetic and excited about school. They come up and hug you and say, 'Hi, Mr. Teasley!'"
Jeff helped create some new programs, including a Young Authors celebration that he considers a success.
His greatest challenge was getting to know children at the school, their names, backgrounds, skills and personalities. He thinks that's important because different situations require different types of intervention.
"You've got to be tough when you need to, and you've got to be a push-over when you need to," Jeff said. "But most of the time, you've got to be able to walk that line in the middle."
Jeff recognizes the benefits of asking for help from other staff and occasionally saying, "I don't know," instead of pretending to have all the answers.
He also has learned not to sweat the small stuff.
"They're kids," he said. "They're going to make mistakes. They're going to do silly things. You've got to deal with issues, but you can't blow things out of proportion."