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Monday
Aug192019

A Back To School Homework Assignment for Parents

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

For me it was Blue Horse notebooks, No. 2 pencils, a lunchbox and a new pair of P.F Flyers. After a week or so, I added a strap around a few school books, and arms full of library books. (Keep in mind Eisenhower was president when I was born). Total cost of back to school to my parents, including shoes and lunchbox, never reached much above $10.

Today it’s a long list of required supplies (which varies wildly by classroom and grade) signed paperwork from parents promising you won’t lose the assigned Chromebook, a thick stack of policy papers on everything from transportation to use of your school photo to who and where cell phones can be used. And of course, new shoes, many of which now cost more than most teachers made in a week back when I started school. 

My wife and I estimated the cost of our two kids back-to-school lists, not including clothing and shoes, was always well north of $200. The memory of what the clothing and shoes cost is just too painful to revisit.

But if you were out over the weekend, you witnessed it. Parents and children dragging themselves through department or office supply stores, neither looking very pleased with the process. 

Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.  

And while the bells no longer sound out like a three-alarm alert at the local fire station, one thing remains the same: today kids across Anderson County will walk, ride or drive into a new school year.

Some will be going for the first time, dropped off by weeping moms/dads who knew the day would come but still aren’t prepared for the reality. If the kids were half as mushy as their parents, first grade teachers would be in real trouble. 

Others will be heading into their final year of public school, blissfully unaware that it might be the ending of some of the easiest days of their lives.

And while the dear old golden rule days may be gone -  and it’s good that the reading and writing and arithmetic (is that still a thing?) are no longer taught with the threat of a hickory stick, which certainly never curbed my behavior - it’s a good time to remember that the one constant is the factor over the years is that teachers still make a difference 

Yeah I recognize, it’s not always positive. We all remember our worst teachers. The ones who, for whatever reason, seem to have checked out when it came to connecting to students. Then and now, they make up a minority in ever school, getting on other teachers last nerve more than their most challenging students. 

But the overwhelming majority of men and women who have chosen to devote their entire working lives to educating children recognize their enormous responsibility and do their part to make the world a better place. 

The stories are literally endless which begin with “I don’t know where I’d be today without my (fill-in-the-grade) teacher.”  

I learned to read before Kindergarten, and my first grade teacher, Mrs. Hunnicutt (who had also been mother mother’s first grade teacher decades earlier), recognized how bored I was in class and allowed me to bring in library books to read when I was caught up or ahead of the class. My third grade teacher, Sue Medlock in her first year of teaching (the boys all had a crush on her), shared a short story I wrote with school librarian Edna Allen, who helped me get it published in a real magazine, giving me my first writer’s credit. There are other teachers I remember, a junior high teacher I won’t mention by name, one who accused me of plagiarizing a story she thought “too good to have been written by someone my age.” After she realized I had indeed written the story as one of her creative writing assignments, she also went the extra mile to help me get it published. 

There many others, scattered across high school, college and graduate school who encouraged, challenged and convinced me that formal education was not only not a waste of time, it was a fine-tuned pair of lens which helped me see the world in ways I might otherwise have missed. 

So today is a day to give thanks to the teachers who are facing rooms full of fresh (and not-so-fresh) faced youngsters today, and for those who’ve gone before them. 

Take a minute to thank one of your teachers, if they are still around to thank, or post a kind word on social media about them if not.

And for parents, it’s never too early to get to know your kids’ teachers, the ones who might be crucial factors in the future of their children. Meet with them, thank them for being a teacher, and offer your support for the year ahead. 

In all the political chatter about education, all the added paperwork that seems distant from any efficacy, and all after-school work in which teachers are often obliged to take part, one thing has not changed. Teachers still need encouragement to fulfill their calling. And that is your homework for today.

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