School starts again on Monday. I’m trying to find the excitement in that. As a child, I only remember being excited about the start of school twice in my life. Once was in the eighth grade when I got to wear my new, bright-yellow corduroy pants to school on the first day. I thought they looked cool.
If anyone had taken a picture of me in those pants, I am sure I would have posed gleefully, though as I think about it now, I think I might try to burn such a picture if I came across it today.
Nevertheless, in 1979, I was a pretty proud dude.
I got excited again at the start of my senior year because I knew it was the beginning of the end. I wasn’t particularly excited about the classes, except maybe my yearbook class, which only required heavy-lifting three or four times a year. The rest of the time we were able to catch up on other work, sit and talk or generally enjoy the run of the school.
Interestingly enough, I don’t recall ever being that excited about the start of school when I was in elementary school, which is the time when most students actually look forward to school. The end of the school day was always infinitely more exciting than the beginning of the day. Come to think of it, that holds true for me today, though it’s been a long time since I darkened the door of a classroom as a student.
My children, right up until the very end, looked forward to the start of school. School was in their wheelhouse and they knew it. School was where they felt in control, either because they understood what the teachers were teaching or because the social life at school is always infinitely more interesting than social life at home.
The weekend before classes began was always a blur. My children always wanted to make sure they had enough three-ring binders and paper and markers and pens and ... well, you get the idea. There was no shortage of school supplies in their bookbags. I, however, was one of those kids who was a net borrower: You know, the kid who has paper and pencils at the beginning of the school year, but has run out by mid-November and “borrows” a piece of paper or a pencil every time the teacher issues an assignment.
College was a different story. The start of school was always an exciting time. So much so, in fact, that I moved to school a week before classes started every year just so I could socialize with friends without the burden of classes and homework hovering overhead. Exactly what happened in those weeks before classes started, I’m not sure. A lot of work during the day, a lot of parties in the evening. Yes, it was fun
But colleges have already started classes in most places and it’s the younger students who are about to embark on another year of learning, sporting events, homework, projects and proms.
Schools are very much the center of community life. That’s long been the case, dating back the times when communities got together and built their own schoolhouses to serve their children. Those schools became meeting places and gave parents an opportunity to share in community life, catch up on the latest news – well, really the latest gossip – and they were, of course, where the children of those adults learned. Even when I entered kindergarten, some 45 years ago, school was the center of community and family life. Schedules revolved around this open house or that PTA meeting or some sporting event.
Schools became comfortable places, and for those of us fortunate enough to have involved parents, it wasn’t scary to have your parents walk through the door. Most of the time.
I hope that’s what schools still are for the young people who resume their educations this year.