The sacrilege of going back to school in August
“Will I get that marine-wannabe lunatic for phys ed?” “Will Mrs. So-and-so be sober this year?” “Is he back, I thought he had a breakdown?”
Back when I was young the new school year started on the Tuesday after Labour Day. “Summer” consisted of those days between the last day of school and the day after Labour Day; this was a school-free period – sacrosanct. Even after many years the thought of attending classes in August still just doesn’t seem quite right somehow. There was a clear definition of the end of summer; Labour Day Monday. Back to school sales were not seen until mid-August, certainly in not mid-July, something that both teachers and students now find repugnant. I’m no longer at school, haven’t been for some time, but the return to school affects many more than just students. Traffic picks up and even the business world gets back to normal operations with the vacation season over.
That holiday Monday was spent preparing yourself mentally for another long school year – or just being plain miserable. The soundtrack to this day of preparation and pain, playing in the background, was the annual Jerry Lewis Labour Day muscular dystrophy telethon. Jerry and Ed McMahon anchored the event in Las Vegas that, along with raising millions of dollars, eased us out of the lazy summer days and into fall. Even if the weather continued to be warm, perhaps hot at times, once Jerry had sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone“, and cried, and Ed announced that a new record amount had been raised -“timpani” – you knew it was all over. Now Ed has passed away, and Jerry’s been given the heave-ho for some reason and school starts in August. What the hell went wrong?
The grade school I attended was relatively small, and the teachers tended to stay for years. So when returning to class you already had an idea of what to expect inasmuch as you knew, for better or worse, who you’d be spending most of each day trying to stay awake in front of for the next ten months. In high school, with many teachers and subjects, the angst level was ratcheted-up significantly by that feeling of not knowing who would be teaching you what. “Will I get that marine-wannabe lunatic for phys ed?” “Will Mrs. So-and-so be sober this year?” The first day of every high school year was “schedule day” when all was revealed, and that was all we did on day one, receive, digest and come to terms with our schedule. “Is he back, I thought he had a breakdown?” Worst case scenarios were realized or bullets were dodged; the computer print-out schedule held the key to your immediate future. That one sheet of green bar printer paper could make or break your year, if not yourself.
Being a catholic school some students saw this conflict as a sign of their bilocation abilities and figured it put them on a fast track to sainthood
Unlike college and university where some wiggle room usually exists regarding scheduling and course changes, the high school schedule may as well have been etched in stone. Hence the stomach-churning anticipation. There were a few occasions when schedule changes were permitted, for instance when a computer glitch had you in two classes at the same time. Being a catholic school some students saw this conflict as a sign of their bilocation abilities and figured it put them on a fast track to sainthood.
So some time ago I decided I would stick with the Labour Day-official-end-of-summer concept and not be caught up in the rush-to-school antics of the modern world.