Looking back at going back to class
Sept. 1, 2017
by Ivan Raconteur

Schools are conducting open houses, fall sports are starting, and in the newspaper office we have been compiling photos and biographies of new teachers.

These are all sure signs that it is back to class time.

Some literary friends and I recently shared some memories about this time of year.

There were two schools of thought when it came to going back to school.

Some hated the idea of going back to a regular class schedule after a summer of fun, especially the part that required getting up in the morning.

That’s understandable.

Some people need more sleep than others, and some just plain enjoy it more, so it’s no surprise that being dragged out of bed at an unnatural hour every morning would be a repugnant change for those people.

Others in our little group liked back to school season because of the trappings that came with it.

For some, this included a new pair of shoes.

In my case, this meant a seven-block walk down to old man Undeen’s Shoe Store with my mother.

The walls of his ancient lair were lined with stacks of shoes from the uneven floor to the tin-plated ceiling. It smelled of leather and the dust of decades, and many of the shoeboxes were yellowed with the passage of time.

Each fall, I was issued a new pair of sneakers. Apart from the size, they were always exactly the same as the year before. The style never changed, and I secretly suspected he had purchased a truckload of those shoes as war surplus, and had been doling them out to the neighborhood kids for decades.

School clothes were a tradition enjoyed by some of my colleagues.

I remember getting some new clothes for school, but as the youngest of four boys in my family, most of the clothes I wore had been handed down by brothers, and it had been a long time since they were new.

Later on, when I was earning enough delivering papers, mowing lawns, and sweeping floors to buy my own clothes, I did enjoy the fun of shopping for a new school wardrobe.

Some in our group had fond memories of another sensory sign of school – the unmistakable aroma of a new box of crayons.

One woman noted she had always dreamed of owning a deluxe box of 64 Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener in the back, but she had never received one.

My allocation was generally limited to the eight, or sometimes 16-crayon set.

I believe we all liked the new school supplies we received each fall.

My favorite was new notebooks, full of pages just waiting to be filled.

Even back then, I enjoyed writing, and I considered blank pages an inviting opportunity.

I remember the annual ritual of discovering which teachers I would have, and selecting classes for the new year.

Things have changed a lot since I was in school. Teachers today all seem to be about 18 years old, and even the most venerable ones have not yet turned 30 (at least that’s how it seems when I cover school events these days).

Back when I was in school, all the teachers were ancient. I’m pretty sure some of them were about 100, and had learned their routines ‘round about the Civil War.

These craggy-faced crones and ornery ogres weren’t interested in being popular with their students. Their goal was to break our spirits and make us toe the line.

Although I, like some of my friends, hated the loss of freedom that the start of school imposed, there was a brief period each fall during which I looked forward to the new term because of all the possibilities.

Even during my teenage years when I knew everything, I was still game for trying to learn new things, and the start of the new school year was full of promise.

Unfortunately, I am cursed with the shortest attention span in recorded history, so after about 15 minutes, or at least within the first two weeks, the novelty of the new school year wore off for me, and I was wishing I could go back to the uninterrupted bliss of summer, with no rules, schedules, or restrictions on my valuable time.

I lost interest in lessons long before my new sneakers lost their bounce, which is part of the reason that, despite my early optimism, I was generally a reluctant student.

Despite all that, I’d gladly trade my seven day per week job for a school schedule that included summers off.

Sometimes we just don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone.

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