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Happy New School Year

September 4, 2011

Back To SchoolEver since I was little, I’ve thought of the first Tuesday in September as the beginning of the ‘real’ New Year.  January 1st might arrive with fireworks, giant electric balls dropping in Times Square, the banging of pots and pans in the street, and the need to remember to add +1 to the date, but the first day of school comes with the promise of new clothes, new supplies, new teachers (or students) and classrooms (maybe a new school), and potential new friends (or colleagues).  It is – in my mind – a much more exciting ‘starting over’ time.

Pencil CrayonsI’ve always approached September and “Back to School” with eager anticipation.  I can’t say I specifically recall my first day of school (or most of my actual ‘first days’ – except for Grade 10, when I couldn’t find my assigned locker) but I do remember the excitement of shopping for back to school supplies (notebooks, binders, pencils, erasers, rulers, pencil crayons … ah, pencil crayons!) and that one special ‘first day of school’ outfit (in Grade 10 it was a black and white checked mini skirt, a white turtleneck sweater, white fishnet stockings, and black ‘go-go’ boots).  I always liked school – so preparing to return to the classroom each September did not cause me any angst whatsoever; I actually looked forward to it.

College ClassroomIt’s probably not surprising that I ended up working (and eventually teaching) at educational institutions, where ‘the academic year’ is far more important than ‘the calendar year’.  In a community college – regardless of the job you do – your working life is driven by the needs of students arriving in September and leaving in May (although some take courses all summer as well). The ‘times between’ are spent planning and scheduling, and – if you’re teaching – course preparation and evaluation.  As a teacher, I always approached September start-up with the same eagerness I did when I was a student – I couldn’t wait to find my classrooms, meet my students, try out new teaching methods, deliver fresh content.  September was a wonderful new beginning; January was just the start of another semester.

School SuppliesWhen my boys were little, I tried (and hopefully, succeeded) in transferring my excitement about each new school year to them. I loved the foray to the mall to take advantage of all the ‘back to school’ sales.  New backpacks, new shoes, new supplies, new clothes – we carried on the traditions I remember from my childhood (albeit with some variations – and considerably more expense).  I took photos of each boy on every single ‘first day’ of school – to me, each year represented an important milestone, and the start of an exciting adventure (for me as well as for them).

Even though I’m now ‘retired’ from teaching (this will be the second year I’ve ‘missed’ school start up), I still think of the day after Labour Day as the beginning of a new year (and since my husband still teaches, I can live it vicariously through him!)  I’ve been known to glance through the ‘back to school’ flyers and to wander (rather wistfully) through the ‘school supply’ aisles at the local department store; I’ve had to remind myself that I don’t need to buy a ‘first day’ outfit.  And while I don’t regret my decision to leave my teaching position, I do miss the thrill of that first day of school.  I don’t suppose that will ever change.

So, to all my friends and former colleagues who are ‘back to school’ this week, and to any of my readers who happen to be students, I’d like to wish you a hearty “Happy New School Year” from … the other side of 55.

Happy New School Year

  1. Colleen permalink
    September 6, 2011 8:58 am

    I’m the same as you Margo, September is definitely the real start of the new year! My Gramma is the same way and buys a new box of pencils every September!

    • September 6, 2011 10:19 am

      I still HAVE to pick up something just before Labour Day – pens, a notebook, (more) pencil crayons. It just doesn’t seem right not to!


  2. September 4, 2011 3:41 pm

    Well I started back last Monday here in TX. I have one face-to-face class and one online class. I have conducted two web meetings and have three more 30′ ones scheduled this coming week for the online class…it is a foreign language class, after all. So far enjoying it but there is certainly a technology learning curve. I don’t miss the drive of going in everyday, just twice a week now…so I guess I’m in transition + the other consulting things I do.
    As a mother of two teachers, and grandmother, I’m living all the beginning of school (on the elementary and middle school levels) anticipation through them now.

    • September 4, 2011 3:52 pm

      Colleges here are moving to ‘blended learning’ models (50/50 in class and online delivery) – just another reason why I made the decision to leave when I did. I am very ‘tech-savvy’ but I wasn’t looking forward to spending half my ‘teaching time’ monitoring online discussions and posting materials for students to view at their leisure (or not at all!) I honestly don’t think students learn as much (or as well) when they aren’t engaged in ‘real’ classroom experiences and discussions. I know I wouldn’t be as engaged a student if I was just sitting at the computer reading and ‘participating’ using a keyboard! I do miss those ‘first day jitters’, though!


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