I don't want to be a crank or a curmudgeon, but for the life of me I can't make peace with school starting on the first day of August. That's a full month before the big yellow bus pulled up in front of the house back in the good ole days. In my elementary school years in the late 60s and early 70s, our first day was the day after Labor Day. By high school, they'd crept it back to the week before Labor Day, but we still had almost all of August free of pop quizzes and homework.
The educational powers that be are much better informed in such matters than am I, but I just don't get what the rush is. It's not like the kids are getting out that much earlier than we did in the Dark Ages. Our last day was in early June and kids today are set free around the end of May. We've sprinkled days off throughout the year, thus creating the early start.
It's the kid in me, I know. I'm 59 years old, long past the days of compulsory education. Still, I get a little sad about the summer ending. I drive by a school and remember sitting there in my desk, glancing out the window and longing for the final bell. The word homework fills me with dread to this day. Put the word math in front of it and I'll break out in hives. Though I knew school had to start at some point, I wanted to put it off as long as possible. After all, if Jesus came back in September, I sure didn't want to spend August in a desk or taking tests, so let's just wait until after Labor Day. Made perfect sense to me.
As a grown-up, supposedly mature adult, I still get giddy at the mention of the faintest possibility of snow and the remote chance that school will get canceled for a day. You talk about a gift when I was a kid in school - a free day out of the blue! Two days of snow was better than twice as good and, best of all, a couple of times, the Governor or the School Superintendent or somebody in charge, declared that we didn't have to make up the missed days. That rivaled Christmas in my book.
So, you can tell I wasn't the biggest fan of school. Yet, I look back with deep appreciation for the opportunity of an education and for my parents making me keep my nose to the grindstone enough to not only graduate, but to actually learn something along the way. And I appreciate my teachers, even the ones about whom I groused the most. I couldn't have made it an easy task and, today, I realized they likely dreaded the start of the school year as much as I did for it meant only the first day of 180 they had to spend with lunkheads like me. Yet, they showed up, prepared and ready to instill not only the lessons in the books but, even more importantly, the lessons about life and living that have shaped me to this day.
Pray for them, will you? Pray for their safety, especially in these crazy times when the inexplicable and evil takes place far more often than we can fathom. Pray for the kids; for the ones who love school and the ones who tolerate it. Pray for the ones whose home life appears postcard perfect and for the kids who suffer from hunger, deprivation, neglect, even abuse. Pray for the kid for whom the lessons come easy, and also for the one who struggles, the one who wrestles to pay attention and remain focused, the one for whom the letters on the page are a jumble.
Pray for the teachers and administrators, the bus drivers and the custodians, the lunchroom workers and the guidance counselors and the office staff. Pray that they will know the honor and dignity of their work and that, every night when their head hits the pillow, that they will sleep secure in the knowledge that they have had a positive influence on the precious children in their care.
Say a prayer for the parents as well. Some have to wrangle to keep their kids motivated and some are battling to keep them in decent clothes and with a roof over their head. Some look forward to report cards coming home and others dread a call to stop by the office for a conference. For some, this is the first year they've put their little one in the care of the school and their heart is a little bit broken. For others, that final year has begun and they're counting down the days until their offspring walks across that stage and takes hold of a diploma. While you're at it, pray for all the parents in between.
Oh, and if you think about it - pray for a snow day or two this winter. Somewhere, there's a kid like me who will thank you for it. And maybe a teacher or two, as well.