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Overhead projections: looking back to school



by Anthonette Klinkerman

There was a big box office supply store commercial that came out at the end of the summer that never failed to make me laugh. A traditional winter holiday carol (politically correct terminology) rang out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” A man went joyously sailing by on a shopping cart, two sullen kids shuffling behind.

“They’re going baaaaack,” proclaimed the
announcer’s voice.

Yes, it’s back to school time once again. As a teacher, I get this commercial, and as a parent, I get it even more. Summer is a long stretch of time for kids and parents, made even longer by warm days and nights where it’s still light at 9 pm.

But I have fond memories of the beginning of the school year from my childhood. School supply shopping was always a favorite activity. The unblemished folders, empty notebooks, packs of yellow pencils, bright rulers, and pristine marker sets signified a new start. It wasn’t about last year’s grades, which were letters back then, but about starting fresh. The crack of a new textbook, its corners sharp enough to cause injury, actually gave me a little thrill.

Then there was the clothing shopping. Strict dress code didn’t allow for much “expression.” Girls could only wear pants on Fridays, and NEVER jeans. Boys would get called into the office if their hair touched their collared shirts. I went to a private school in San Diego from third grade clear through graduation. (If you are even vaguely familiar with California, you would know why my parents chose private school.)

I skipped second grade, but the difference between my peers and myself caught up with me years later in high school, and I repeated eleventh grade. Fortunately, it was a small enough school that this didn’t become an emotionally scarring issue.

These days when parents ask me about their child skipping a grade, I do not hesitate to advise them against it. My parents will tell you they let their pride get in the way of thinking through the move.

Now and then I run across a parent who decides to hold their child back a year. I can’t help but cheer them on for determining what is best for that child. I even watched a parent make this decision for their middle school-aged daughter. They knew she wasn’t ready for high school and opted to hold her back another year. Last I heard, she had lived to tell about it.

So our children begin the school year, some for the first time, some for the last time. Some will be looking forward to a driver’s license; some will be losing a first tooth. But all of them will have someone at home who will be their best advocate.

Stay involved, even if you’re certain an alien pod replaced your child the night before school. Even if they change the spelling of their name weekly. Even though by a month into school you’re concerned something died in their backpack. Even if all you get by way of conversation is a guttural noise. Even if all they ate for lunch was croutons.

It will all pass, but far too quickly.

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