Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to School Ritual

Yesterday, Cobb County started back to school--and as I've done every year since I retired from teaching, I got up early so that I could get in a morning walk while the kids were at the bus stops for the first day of school. Since Cobb County staggers the start time for elementary, high school, and middle school in order to utilize the same buses for all three runs, I ended up taking a long, leisurely walk so that I could observe both the elementary and the high school students (I didn't feel like stretching my walk out to see the middle school students as well--because, to be honest, I find "middle school" and "student" to be an oxymoron anyway).

It's always interesting to watch the first-day reactions. There will always be one elementary school student crying because he doesn't want to go to school; there will always be one or two parents who'd made posters for their kids to mark the first day of their school year; there will be some kids very excited to get on the bus; there will be some who look positively dejected; and of course, there will be some with a "deer in the headlights" expression, wondering just how the first day of school got here so very quickly. I saw all of those yesterday, along with a lot more parents than are typically found at the bus stops; the first day of school is sort of a family event, with everyone gathering to make sure the year starts off right. Give 'em a few weeks, and a lot of those parents won't be making the hike from the house to the bus stop--but there are always a few parents who make sure that the kids get off to school safely.

This year the weather chose to be kind; for the first time that I can recall, our morning temperature on the first day of school was 64°--and that's most definitely not a typical August low in Georgia. It reminded me once again why I never thought that starting school on August 1st was a good idea; those school systems that did had to work through extreme heat, burdensome humidity, un-air-conditioned buses, and the inevitable non-functional school HVAC systems. Georgia just doesn't have the proper weather for an early August school start; Georgia's typical hottest period will occur at the end of July and the first week or so of August. For almost the entire time I taught, we brought kids into the classroom on the third week of August, more or less, and I found that to be much more tolerable.

(I also never had a problem with a semester that ended after the Christmas holidays, but now there are some who push for an early start so they can wrap up the first semester before the holidays. I figure that if a kid has learned the subject matter so poorly that they forget most of it in a two-week holiday, then they didn't really learn it at all--and if a teacher's final exams focus on such minutia that the test seems more like a trivia quiz designed to stump the student, then they've missed the whole point of a final exam anyway.)

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