Back-to-School Daze (Weekend Assignment #332)

It’s about that time of year, y’all:

Weekend Assignment #332: Back To School

In just a couple weeks, students will be heading back to school. Share with us what that means in your life. Are you currently shopping for school supplies for the students in your life? Are you planning on going back to school? Maybe everyone around you is rushing to get ready for the new school year, but you can sit back and relax. Tell us what that’s like.

Extra Credit: Tell us what you liked the most and disliked the most about the first day of school!

“In just a couple of weeks”? Our kids are back in school now. The 10-year-old starts fifth grade today, and the high-school junior started classes almost two weeks ago (her school follows a different calendar than the rest of the district). My son was usually back in school by mid-August; for some reason, Southern schools tend to start the year while the summer heat is still going strong (but they’re generally out by the end of May). It’s been a good twenty years since I lived anywhere that started school after Labor Day.

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was the one going to school, I was usually pretty excited about the first day. I was pretty good at school, for one thing (aside from gym class). I enjoyed breaking out the new notebooks, pencils, and book bag, and by the time I was in my teens, I was particularly excited about back-to-school clothes shopping! I went to a Catholic high school where we had a strict dress code rather than required uniforms, so school clothes were kind of a Big Deal. I also appreciated what the first day of school represented: a fresh start. The possibilities for meeting new friends, trying new activities, and making a new – and hopefully, better – impression on people were never better or brighter. However, a sense of anxiety usually accompanied those possibilities: this could be the year I had no friends AND finally found out the hard way that I wasn’t really all that smart. I still feel those mixed emotions about my first day of anything – new job, new situation – but it’s been a long time since they specifically applied to school; once I graduated university, I was done, and have rarely seriously entertained post-grad education (especially since I’d want to quit working to do it, and that’s not an option).

Becoming a parent shifts your back-to-school perspective. I think that, to some extent, the excitement level is higher – no matter what arrangements you make for your kids, and regardless of whether you’re at home with them or away at work, summer vacation can be stressful. Getting back to the structure of the school year, while creating its own variety of stress, can be a relief too. (As an aside – and this is a topic for another conversation – I don’t think year-round school is a bad idea, but given that budget issues have our local districts cutting instructional days, I don’t see that happening.) However, back-to-school shopping is nowhere near as exciting, and if your kids live in school districts that send out huge lists of required supplies – (sometimes) because the schools don’t have the money to provide them – it can be quite an ordeal.

Parents’ back-to-school anxiety is fueled by different things than kids’, too, particularly when they’re in districts struggling with funding shortages, inadequate resources, overcrowded classrooms, conflicting standards, and bigger demands for “parental involvement” every year. It’s hard to keep up with it all, but as advocates for our kids’ education, we have to. We’re still the ones primarily responsible for ensuring that our kids will one day be prepared to take on the world as informed, literate, socially-functional adults – and we have that job 365 days a year.

Are your kids ready for back-to-school? How about you?

photo credit: madmaven on www.sxc.hu

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