For the first time ever, I was in school on my birthday. That’s because every few years since I began teaching in 1970, our school’s starting date became earlier, until opening day on the calendar was August 15th. What happened to ending summer break after Labor Day?
It’s all about the testing schedule. More days of instruction on our schedule before the March test dates gives us a much better chance of scoring well on state tests and earning a high report card rating.
No matter the starting date, the process of opening a school year is always the same. Days (sometimes weeks) of planning include back to school shopping, setting up a classroom, and studying class lists and permanent records of at-risk students—all go into a good school start.
My back to school guilty pleasure is buying brand new school supplies. I especially love new pens. I enjoy seeing script in deep black or blue ink on crisp, white paper. Fine point Paper Mate pens produce a delicate, classy line, but medium points inscribe thicker, bolder, richer marks. Colored pens like Paper Mate Ink Joy are fun, but I require that they not be used for student notebooks. Pale pink or soft baby blue ink on page after page are too hard to read.
Another back to school thrill is scoring fantastic bargains at Staples (teachers’ weekend) and Walmart. I can’t resist dollar scissors, one cent (yes, one cent) notebooks, and two-for-one packs of index cards. One year I ran into three-clip folders with pockets for ten cents each. For fifteen dollars, I hauled in 150. Every student had a class notebook and not one had an excuse not to turn one in. The money I save gets turned into store-made flash cards and memory games (whoo hoo!).
All other things aside, the most important part is getting to know the kids. They are a grab bag of personalities. As Forest Gump’s mama said, "You never know what you’re gonna get." If you wrap up the whole back to school experience into one feeling, it would be excitement.