Do you hear what I hear? It’s silence punctuated only sporadically by the squeaky brakes of school buses and children’s muffled screams as they are carted off to school. You can tell that Autumn is right around the corner, and not just because leaves are starting to pile on the ground, and the bottoms of shoes are starting to collect the foul berry detritus from Gingko trees. The best way to tell that the oppressive heat and humidity will take a break for a couple months is that it’s time for school to start again.
In short, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
When I was a young boy, I’d always look forward to going back to school. My parents were both educators in some form, so it’s not like I had a summer without supervision. And besides that, I was a huge nerd. I loved my summer reading assignments. As opposed to real life, I excelled in an academic environment where theory was always more important than practice.
Lately, I enjoy the beginning of school for other reasons. Most importantly, the start of the academic year gets kids off my street in the middle of the night. The summer turns my tiny neighborhood street into a free-for-all at night where young teens can be seen and heard doing anything from jumping rope to making out on top of cars. I doubt that these kids are actually following a parentally mandated curfew, but school usually tuckers them out enough that they are in their homes by midnight where they presumably are making out on floors and couches instead. I feel less like an old man when I don’t have to scream at kids to get off my proverbial lawn.
One drawback of the start of the academic year is that all the college kids come back to town. I don’t mind that they crowd the coffee shops and movie theaters of the city; they more than make up for it by looking so pretty. What bothers me is that they make me feel old. Every year, Beloit University releases a “Mindset List” that tells you what incoming freshmen are thinking based on when they were born and what (little) life experience they’ve garnered. This year the class of 2016 (you read that right), a group of children born into cyberspace have never played with cassette tapes and have no use for radios or encyclopedias that sit on a shelf. They were born after the premiere of The Real World into a world where people had always stopped being polite and started getting real.
Maybe the most fun thing about this time of year is seeing teachers have to go back to work. Teachers may be the most underpaid, underappreciated workers in the world. They have the most important job in the world: they expand the scope of knowledge and create a future generation of workers and citizens. They shape the world around us for pennies, sometimes spending their own money on supplies and their own time tutoring children. They are at once advocates, educators and parents. However, there is not a collective who whines more about returning to work after a vacation than teachers when it’s time to go back to school. We’ve seen the pictures of your 3-month vacation; social media has dictated every detail of the vacation to us. It’s time to head back to school; the children of Philadelphia await your expertise.
Wait. We do still have a School District in Philadelphia, don’t we?