School's out for summer. Actually, it's not. But it seems like
yesterday I was singing along with Alice Cooper as another school
year came to a close. I didn't realize school was back in session,
but I was wondering why my usual 15 minute commute to work had been
extended. I remember thinking, "Where did all these cars come
from?" And that night I saw a news story about the start of the new
school year - then it made sense. For the next nine months I need
to leave ten minutes earlier in order to beat the school crowd to
the drive-thru at McDonalds. Nothing like starting the day with a
large sweet tea.
I knew the school year was approaching because my extremely
altruistic employer was awash in community service projects
gathering school supplies and stuffing backpacks with nutritional
snacks. I must admit I had fun scouring the stores for bargains on
pencils, rulers, notebooks and binders. It's been more years than I
care to remember that I did this for my girls, but in a few short
years I will be back at it for my grandchildren.
School sure has changed since the days I roamed the hallowed
halls of St. Anne's School.
Blackboards - do classrooms even have these anymore? I know they
have white boards and smart boards (whatever those are). The
blackboards in the classrooms of St. Anne's covered two walls. When
we arrived in the morning, one section would be filled with our
assignments for the day. A small box was drawn on the upper corner
of another. Inside the box were the words "girls" and "boys". This
is where attendance was recorded. The remaining sections were used
throughout the day for teaching. You would wait to be called upon
to come to the blackboard to work a math problem or diagram a
sentence. If you knew the answer, this was fun. If you didn't, it
could be mortifying.
At the end of the day, two students would be called upon to
erase the blackboards. This was a privilege, not a punishment.
After the boards were completely erased, you would take the erasers
outside to clap them clean. Today, I am sure this would lead to
lawsuits claiming lung diseases caused by the inhalation of chalk
dust. I can visualize the attorney infomercials. On Fridays, the
blackboards were washed clean to ready them for Monday morning.
Classroom cleaning jobs were expected of every student. At the
end of the year, we would scrub the tops of our desks, removing all
the pencil marks that had accumulated over the school year. We
would also strip the bulletin boards of their decorations and pull
out nine months of staples. Again, I see lawsuit opportunity if
this task were performed by students in schools today.
On Fridays, every student was required to clean out their desk
and bring home every book. This was before the invention of rolling
books bags and back packs. Books were stacked with the largest ones
on the bottom, and the pile was secured by a rubber book strap
which proved quite useless if the stack became wobbly and toppled.
This typically happened as you were entering or exiting the school
bus, causing a jam up in the line. Books all had to be covered in
brown Kraft paper, and you didn't dare create graffiti drawings on
Students today come home on the first day of school with a
supply list to be purchased. I understand the pens, pencils,
markers, composition books, filler paper and assorted measuring
devices like rulers, protractors, compasses and calculators. What I
don't understand is why parents are also expected to supply the
classroom with a year's worth of Kleenex and hand sanitizer. Back
in our day, we were sent to school with a hankie and if your hands
got dirty, you licked them if it wasn't time for a bathroom break.
The entire class went to the lavatories at the same time, lined up
in size order. You went once in the morning and again after lunch.
Other than those times, you needed a really good reason to be
allowed to visit the bathroom.
Lunches have certainly changed since my days at school. My mom
sent me off each morning with a brown paper bag containing a
bologna sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a cookie. Milk was
purchased for two cents a day and delivered to the classroom. After
lunch, the upper classmen visited each room selling ice cream bars
that could be had for ten cents. If you forgot your lunch, you were
sent to see Inez, a member of our custodial staff who would create
a lavish PBJ so you didn't starve. Today, school cafeterias offer a
variety of hot lunches, vending machines and even some concessions
of Chick-Fil-A and McDonalds.
I'm sure there will be additional changes by the time my
grandchildren start school. The supply lists will be longer, the
lunch options more chic and bathroom breaks unlimited. But there
are some traditions that need to be passed down to the future
generations. So when school lets out for the summer, I'll teach
them the traditional end-of-school celebration song - no more
pencils, no more books, no more teacher dirty looks. And we'll play
Alice Cooper too.
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