Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Is it fall break yet?
Another school year is about to begin. I know this because I hear all the whining. “How can summer be over already? We just went on break! I’m not ready!” I tell my teacher friends to stop complaining and remind them many of us work year-round.
Our last two offspring graduated five years ago, but I am always reminded a new school year is about to commence when I realize it is time for the county fair. Backing the fair up against the week before school starts is not much unlike having property tax due ten days before Christmas. What is the thinking there?
The fair is a fun family event but does not come without a cost. My family was a party of nine. I recall one year having an internal debate between corn dogs and Converse. Yes, baby needed new shoes … and clothes and materials.
Once we had figured out how to bankroll the fair, we still had to budget for new wardrobes, backpacks and the required supplies list that grew in length and expense with each grade.
Whatever happened to brown paper bags covering text books? My children attended school in the age of the cloth book cover. Gone were the days of neatly printed labels on brown paper that soon gave way to doodles and notes and creative expression.
Instead, cloth covers were the rage. They came in a variety of patterns and sizes and, apparently, played a role in determining social status. Pity the child with a brown paper bag book cover. Why not just tattoo “loser” on their forehead? It was bad enough we were forcing them to go to school every day. The least we could do was make sure they started off on the right foot.
So, If, conservatively, we allowed for three books per child at $4.00 per cover (on sale), we are well on our way to another hundred dollars before we even got to colored pencils, erasers, paper, binders, glue, rulers and calculators.
I also remember the tradition of leaving the fair in time to see what classroom my child would be placed in. The administrators wisely waited until the end of the day the Friday prior to the start of the year to post classroom placement to minimize the opportunity for backlash.
One year stands out in my mind, when my offspring’s core group of friends were assigned the desired teacher but my youngster was not. The disappointment and subsequent meltdown still send chills down my spine — and my child did not react very well either.
What chance did they have at success if they weren’t in class with teacher X? Everyone knew X was the only teacher able to offer our children the educational experience they deserved. Every other teacher was “the worst,” only able to give the most basic instruction. That really was the sentiment. Parents fought for placement in the “right” class with the “right” teacher or they may as well get the recycled cardboard box and place it under a bridge at the river for their child to move into — doomed to failure as they were.
There was a time when my husband and I had seven children attending five different schools in two districts. The beginning of each school year was cause for some bittersweet moments as we took the “first day of school” photo and remarked on how quickly they were all growing up. But it was also a time of managed chaos and stress.
After dealing with adjusting sleep schedules, new outfits, backpacks, haircuts, provisions for packing lunches and managing the drop off and pick up times for each of our brood, we were rewarded with an onslaught of forms to fill out.
Each of the kids would unpack their bag that first night with volumes of paperwork to be completed and returned “as soon as possible” but certainly by the end of the week. One year my husband flatly refused. He told each of our boys to fill the paper work out themselves and he would simply sign them. That was when we all learned how to spell “disaster.”
Instead of simply repeating the information from form to form, the evening was an onslaught of questions. From the younger ones “Dad, what is our address” to “Dad, what is your social security number?’’ “Dad, who is our healthcare provider?” “Dad, who should we contact in an emergency? How do we know them? What is their number? Dad. Dad. Dad.” Poor guy. I quietly filled in the blanks for my two.
Looking back, we can’t help but wonder how we all survived. But survive we did. In fact, for the most part, we flourished. The new school year brings all kinds of excitement to staff, students and parents alike.
New friends to be made, new experiences to be had. It is challenging and rewarding at the same time. And once they are over, you are bound to look back on the academic years fondly. Now, who’s ready for fall break?
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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