Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Thirteen Old School Style

The beginning of a new school year has always been my favorite time of year.  As a teacher and a mother, it was the clean slate-fresh start of late August that shouted Happy New Year to me, much more so than January 1 ever did. I still feel a twinge of nostalgia when I see the yellow buses begin to roll, and I will never lose my love of blank notebooks and an unopened package of sharpies.

Sure there are things I don't miss...making lunches first thing every.single.morning springs immediately to mind, but mostly I feel a little wistful this time of year. How about 13 Things on a Thursday-old school style?

1. Meet the teacher. My daughter is teaching school in South Carolina and her district holds a one hour meet and greet a couple of days before school begins. Parents and students are invited to stop by the school, find their classroom, lug in their tissues and their Clorox wipes and their hand sanitizer so they have less to lug on Day 1, and best of all, meet their teacher.

When my girls were in elementary school they didn't know who their teacher would be until they heard their names called on that very first day. So much unnecessary anxiety! Parents didn't meet the teacher until Back to School Night, which was a couple of weeks in to the year.

2.  Our front porch-the rules stated that a photo had to be snapped here on the first day of school. Whose rules?  Mine of course.

This little outfit came from Gymboree. Do moms still shop at Gymboree? Does she look too little to be going to school?  I think this was PK, but even for that she seems teeny tiny.

This one is wishing we had a meet the teacher day before school started-

I can almost feel the happy scary nerves.

2. Backpacks-bigger than my children.


3.  Lunchboxes-such a monumental decision. I remember standing in the store for hours (or at least for what felt like hours) before settling on a lunchbox. We started school most often with Disney themed lunchboxes, then graduated to canvas bags and finally in the high school years, a brown paper sack.  We had to remember to buy those when we were in the US, because at the time, there were none to be found in the UK.

4. The bus-my least favorite thing about sending my girls off to school. When Daughter1 started kindergarten we lived atop a mountain in a little town in New Jersey. The idea of that bus making its way down those winding roads, particularly in the wintertime, could keep me awake at night.

When we moved to Maryland, my girls had a short ride to school. Their first driver was, to put it kindly, ancient. I'm serious...he was a nice man and seemed capable so I didn't worry. Much. Then one day we were driving over to the school for something and my daughter casually points to a stop sign and says, 'That's the sign the bus driver hits every single day when we make the turn.'  WHAT???!!!

p.s. They got a new bus driver.

5.  The bus stop photo-Except for that one year in NJ, my girls attended elementary school in Maryland. While I wasn't excited about the bus ride, I did always look forward to the bus stop on that first day of school. We all did.  The parents all walked over too, and there was a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. We loved our little cul-de-sac and the friends, big and little, made there.

6. First grade-This was the year Daughter2 fell off her desk. This was also the year Daughter2 cut her hair. During math. It was her sweet teacher's first year on the job, so bless her. I've reminded Daughter2 of of these little episodes as she begins her first year on the job.

Sometimes it's the cute ones you can't turn your back on.

7. Third grade-Daughter1 had a teacher who attended our church, and there was another third grade teacher there who also attended our church, and who organized the children's productions there.  Such a blessing to have teachers you know are praying their way through the school year.

My daughter is teaching third grade.
She is praying for her students.
So is her mama.
And her sister.
And her grandmamas too.

8. Fourth grade -the year I thought I might die from something called the Mad Minute. So did Daughter1, and honestly she left there with some battle scars.  Every single day Daughter1's teacher had the class do a mad minute, which essentially required you to solve a certain number of problems in a minute. If you didn't meet the deadline, this particular teacher kept you in at recess and made you take it again and again and again, until you did meet the deadline, which was sometimes never.

These mad minutes were usually simple problems, mostly multiplication and division facts I think, which Daughter1 knew like the back of her hand when quizzed at home, but then absolutely blanked on under the pressure and tone in the classroom. Instead of improving with each drill, she'd make more and more mistakes.

For the record, I do believe kids need to memorize basic math facts, but I still don't really understand why you have to do a certain number in a single minute. Does it matter if it takes you a minute and a half?  Many tears were shed over the Mad Minute and many conferences were held.

This was the year Daughter1 decided she couldn't do math.

9.  Fifth grade was the year the teacher convinced her she could. Never underestimate the power of a great teacher.

10.  My girls both had the same fifth grade teacher, and they adored her.

She had the gift of teaching, and she just might read my blog. Hi Miss S. who is now Mrs. S., but who will always be Miss S. to us.

11. Promotion-our primary school made a big deal out of promoting students to the middle school.  Parent volunteers helped by decorating the cafeteritorium, and planning and supervising an after school party at the local bowling alley.  They also had some special days and treats leading up to the event, including an ice cream sundae/yearbook signing hour.  Fifth graders left feeling important and confident and ready to take on the world.

12. Middle school cuts you back down to size.

13. We all think back on those primary years with great fondness. The school environment was warm and friendly, and for the most part felt like a great big family. We've moved a lot, and my girls have friends scattered all over the world, but once upon a time we did lay down some roots in a small town beside the Bay.

Those were happy years, full to overflowing years, fun years...

...years that made us ready for the ones that came after.


  1. The school bus photo is a tradition. My husband drives one (a very conscientious driver) and he told me yesterday of the kindergarten parent who was taking photos. Then she hopped in her car and followed the bus to school to take pictures of the child getting off the bus and going inside to meet the teacher. :)

  2. What an enjoyable read and brought back so, so many memories for me and my two. Hoping all is going well for Shannon thus far.

    1. Thanks's actually my younger daughter who is the teacher : )

  3. Good post. You have a lot of memories here.
    I'd never heard of anything like the Mad Minute. I can see the damage it could do to those poor children. A good teacher does make all the difference in the world.

  4. This could have been written by me as we share so many similar thoughts and memories on this subject. I've always LOVED the beginning of the school year, and really kind of marked my years beginning in Sept. Had the same mandatory front porch first day of school pic going too, to include flipping around so the new back pack could be viewed, haha. And the one of one of your daughters wearing the ruffled jean jumper?..Melody had the identical jumper I am pretty sure. In fact, she had the same towed headed hair and the same uncertain look on her face. Soo many wonderful memories you have stirred up here today for me. Oh, and Gymboree is alive and well, haha, at least it is for some of my grandkids. I enjoyed every minute of this, thanks for posting. Praying for a good year for your daughter!

  5. I think I have bought gifts at Gymboree for my friends children. They are still around. Looks like her socks match the jumper....too cute! That fourth grade teacher with the Mad Minutes sounds to me to be a little to heavy and not worthy of missing recess. Lots of sweet photos Joyce.

  6. We had that same Gymboree dress - so cute! My girls both lived in Gymboree - I wonder too if children are still wearing it. We loved the dresses with leggings and matching headbands and bows :-)

  7. I love the tradition of the first day of school photo. :-) How little and young they were. Didn't that time fly by! Such great memories.

  8. It all goes by in a flash, doesn't it, Joyce? I just love your writing style because you express what's in your heart so eloquently. I'll say a prayer for your girl...I'm certain she'll touch many lives!

  9. What a wonderful walk down memory lane! Your girls are precious!!

  10. Such cute pictures. My daughters do the front porch pictures on the first day of school also. We are dealing with a school bus for the first time this year, but it isn't too bad since our rider is a 12 year old 7th grader....if there is a problem he just has to pull out his phone and call his mom. :)

  11. I'm sure that my DS1, DS2, and DD1 all started school in that same small NJ mountain town . . . back about 24, 23, and 22 years ago. I remember that the bus took the long way around rather than going down the breakneck Rd. This year DD4, my baby, is starting her first year of college and DS1 is about ready to defend his PhD dissertation. Where has the time gone?

  12. I love math and Mad Minutes wouldn't have been an issue for me, but I cannot believe that a teacher would actually use something like that. That just confirms that not all teachers should be teachers. :-( Glad most of your school year memories are good ones. Good luck to your daughter at her first year of teaching!

  13. I loved this post-so sweet! The driver hitting the sign every day?!?!?!-YIKES!

  14. I wish I'd taken more pictures of my girls like you did. That's so cool. Back when I was doing it picture taking was such a hassle with film processing and clunky cameras and all. Since my wife's a teacher I still get somewhat caught up in the back to school spirit. I still want to go out and buy supplies for myself, but I don't use much of that stuff anymore.

    Tossing It Out

  15. I enjoyed reading your school memories! Our children had a bus driver who hit signs, too :( She also took out part of the bank's drive-thru shelter with the bus before they...put her in a class room as a parapro!!! Yep, true story!