by Dee Ernst
It’s September, so let’s reflect for a moment on the greatest glory of the fall – no, not football. Or the World Series. I’m talking about Back-To-School.
When I was a kid, Back-To-School (going forward know as BTS) meant new shoes, new school clothes, a new winter coat and packet of notebook paper for my favorite three ring binder. That first day of class was all about discovery – who your teacher was, who was in your class, that fresh box of crayons, and a cabinet full of construction paper, pots of glue, and boxes of #2 pencils. Going BTS meant I could spend time with all the people I had been away from during the summer – the first few weeks were a flurry of catching up with old friends and assessing the worth of possible new friends.
There were also a few noticeable low points – that gym uniform, for example, a one-piece article of torture and humiliation designed to make any girl of any shape or size look hideous. Trying to memorize yet ANOTHER locker combination. Math class.
Remember having to listen to the radio to find out if school was closing for a snow day? Pencil sharpeners that worked only when you actually turned the handle? Library cards made of cardboard that came in a little paper sleeve? Remember covering your books with brown paper bags?
Well, for those of you that might be out of the loop, BTS is looking a bit different these days. Let’s talk school supplies. Last year, my daughter’s middle school posted their supply lists online. Her team ( Yes, the kids are divided into ‘teams’ now. To foster, I am told, a spirit of cooperation and friendship. I guess without teams, the kids would spit at each other all year) I digress. Sorry. Her team had sixteen different items listed, getting picky about what color highlighter and what size Post-its were required. It was over $100.00 at Staples. And on top of that, I still had to worry about new clothes, new shoes, and a new winter coat.
Thank God high school teachers don’t have supply lists. But they do have a universal impression that every parent has complete access to the Internet, because everything you need to know about how and what your kid is doing in school is available there, and only there. You can go online for assignments and worksheets. As a parent I can access her grades, and even follow the classwork on something called a Moodle page. I don’t know what that is, but, really? Moodle? What kind of word is that for a serious educational tool?
My daughter also found out her schedule online, and, through the magic of Facebook, knew the names and phone numbers of all her classmates. She has a password which will allow her to read her textbooks online. She can send homework to a mailbox, meaning students will never again be allowed the excuse ‘I forgot’. We’ve signed up for “District Alerts” which will immediately text delayed openings and school closings.
By the way, when I mentioned gym uniforms, hand-cranked pencil sharpeners and brown paper bags, I got The Look. You know, the one that goes with that famous question, ‘ And did you have to walk five miles? Each way?? Uphill??? In a blizzard????’
Technology is wonderful, even for those of us who have struggled with it in the past, and will continue to be flummoxed in the future. After all, it’s our kids we’re talking about, and my daughter can type like demon and puts together a power-point presentation that can bring tears to your eyes. Those are the real skills she’ll need going forward, so I’m trusting all those highly paid, well-educated professionals who set the curriculum and who don’t think she’ll need to spell or master cursive writing. Think of all the trees we’ll save by not having endless announcements and notices going home. Imagine all the white-out we won’t have to buy for research papers. No more sagging backpacks overloaded with heavy textbooks, no more protractors, no getting stabbed with a compass, no more over-sized projects put together with poster-board and glue. All our kids have to do is press a button.
And hope the computer doesn’t go on the fritz.