News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

September 4, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Let's hope pupils still long for school days

If this were the day after Labor Day — and it is — and if I spotted you a few decades — and I will — you would find me primed and eager to begin a new school year. I only wish!

Ah, how I looked forward to getting back to school. Maybe it was the smell of books and chalk and lunch boxes stashed in desks, but it was all new and exciting. Getting back to school and seeing friends after a long summer was one of the most exciting events in my young life. Maybe I was a nerd, but it was not just the end of summer, it was a beginning which offered something new and, potentially exciting, every day.

I had never heard of a back pack. I had to carry a load of tablets, a new “pencil box,” a new box of crayons and, rather reluctantly, a small tin of water colors. It wasn’t that I was disinterested in art, but I never did master water colors. My drawings were more water than color and I never appreciated the medium until I met Salty Seamon.

Every new year at school was an adventure waiting to happen, but no “first day” could begin to match my first day in first grade. I can still close my eyes and picture Miss Meeker. She went right to work on her new class with the goal of teaching us to read and, maybe more important, teaching us to enjoy reading. When our primer adventurerers Dick and Jane began to produce yawns, she would sit us in a circle and read to us. My favorite was “Alice in Wonderland.” I still try to reread it every now and then. Few things intrigue me more than the wonders Alice encountered down that rabbit hole.

I suppose Alice’s adventures would seem pale today. Could a talking rabbit or a Cheshire cat compare with alien creatures?

Alas, Labor Day no longer offers that special magic for me. School has already been in session for a week or more. I’m told that school starts earlier than September because rules dictate that football practice is allowed only “X” number of days prior to the start of school and, football schedules being what they are, we need more time to get all those games played before the next season, or time change, or snow or whatever brings football season to an end.

Still, as my Best Friend and I head out to the Sports Center these early mornings, it is reassuring to see kids standing out along the streets waiting for the school bus. These days they have a back pack slung over their young shoulders. I no longer know what is inside those back packs. Surely the younger kids still carry crayons, but lots more colors now than when I had a choice of eight or 16 colors. I would guess they have pages of homework too, no doubt a lot more than I had, but then there were never more than about 18 kids in my classes. Wouldn’t that be a dream class for today’s teachers?

I watch those kids as they wait and hope they are looking forward to being back in school. I hope they are eager to learn and I hope they do learn. Maybe, decades from now, they will have a lot of very happy memories of their school years.

If this were the day after Labor Day — and it is — and if I spotted you a few decades — and I will — you would find me primed and eager to begin a new school year. I only wish!

Ah, how I looked forward to getting back to school. Maybe it was the smell of books and chalk and lunch boxes stashed in desks, but it was all new and exciting. Getting back to school and seeing friends after a long summer was one of the most exciting events in my young life. Maybe I was a nerd, but it was not just the end of summer, it was a beginning which offered something new and, potentially exciting, every day.

I had never heard of a back pack. I had to carry a load of tablets, a new “pencil box,” a new box of crayons and, rather reluctantly, a small tin of water colors. It wasn’t that I was disinterested in art, but I never did master water colors. My drawings were more water than color and I never appreciated the medium until I met Salty Seamon.

Every new year at school was an adventure waiting to happen, but no “first day” could begin to match my first day in first grade. I can still close my eyes and picture Miss Meeker. She went right to work on her new class with the goal of teaching us to read and, maybe more important, teaching us to enjoy reading. When our primer adventurerers Dick and Jane began to produce yawns, she would sit us in a circle and read to us. My favorite was “Alice in Wonderland.” I still try to reread it every now and then. Few things intrigue me more than the wonders Alice encountered down that rabbit hole.

I suppose Alice’s adventures would seem pale today. Could a talking rabbit or a Cheshire cat compare with alien creatures?

Alas, Labor Day no longer offers that special magic for me. School has already been in session for a week or more. I’m told that school starts earlier than September because rules dictate that football practice is allowed only “X” number of days prior to the start of school and, football schedules being what they are, we need more time to get all those games played before the next season, or time change, or snow or whatever brings football season to an end.

Still, as my Best Friend and I head out to the Sports Center these early mornings, it is reassuring to see kids standing out along the streets waiting for the school bus. These days they have a back pack slung over their young shoulders. I no longer know what is inside those back packs. Surely the younger kids still carry crayons, but lots more colors now than when I had a choice of eight or 16 colors. I would guess they have pages of homework too, no doubt a lot more than I had, but then there were never more than about 18 kids in my classes. Wouldn’t that be a dream class for today’s teachers?

I watch those kids as they wait and hope they are looking forward to being back in school. I hope they are eager to learn and I hope they do learn. Maybe, decades from now, they will have a lot of very happy memories of their school years.

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