Time for sharp pencils, sharp minds, happy days of school

Published 12:25 am Saturday, August 8, 2015

The blink of an eye that was summer vacation – not summer; vacation – is over. The children in my life went back to school in Lee County last Monday. Andalusia students start this coming Monday, and county students follow next Monday.

My social media feed was filled this week with photos from friends whose children were sporting backpacks, or are now ensconced in new dorm rooms or apartments, all beautifully decorated.

I love the “back to school” atmosphere. When the supplies start appearing in stores, the blank pages of notebooks and sharp pencils call to me, ever reminiscent of John Frank Hudson’s admonition for his science classes … “You’ll need a sharp pencil and a sharp mind in this class.” The notebooks and binders are like an artist’s blank canvas with a full school year in which the picture can unfold.

When I see the school supplies or the back-to-school photographs, I always remember my first two days of school. On the first, like any first grader, I was escorted to homeroom by my mother. On the second day, transportation was provided by my father. My classmates’ moms might have parked and taken them to class again on the second day, but there was none of that nonsense with my dad. He pulled into the school drop-off line and let me out.

I wasn’t entirely certain I could find my classroom, but I did. I’m not sure if she was in shock, or genuinely thought first graders could roam around unescorted on the second day of school, but I will never forget my teacher’s reaction.

“You are such a big girl! I can’t believe you found our class all by yourself. All of these other babies had to have their mamas with them.”

Suddenly, Little Miss Independence was a 10-foot-tall first grader. I’m not sure if I ever allowed my parents to escort me to class again.

I fell in love with school that year, and I’ve never gotten over it. I was fortunate to have a succession of wonderful teachers who fostered that love of learning, and challenged my classmates and me. I was always excited when the school bells rang, and we were back in the rhythm of classes; after-school activities; homework; repeat. The students I met then are my friends now, and I love bonds we share.

These days, I still get excited when school starts. It seems that the whole world functions in a more orderly way when school’s in session, or at least the newspaper world does. I’ll look forward to visiting the elementary school and watching this year’s students suddenly become grown-ups who can walk to class or find the bus by themselves. Hopefully, they’ll sharpen their pencils and sharpen their minds, and fall in love with school and learning, too.