Off to school in the 21st century

As thousands of students from tinies to teens rush back to school this week, I can’t help but wondering how much it has all changed

As thousands of students from tinies to teens rush back to school this week, I can’t help but wondering how much it has all changed since our adventure along the hallowed halls of learning so many years ago. Like so many of you baby boomers and beyond I can still recall that rather scary stroll with my mother down the long sidewalk and up to the big doors of the classic Red Brick School for my first day of Grade 1.

After a chatty morning of getting to know our new classmates and teachers we were handed a list of instructions and supplies we would need to survive our first exciting year of school in those tiny wooden desks. How exciting it was after a quick lunch to rush down to the store with our parents in the afternoon, then trying to find all that neat, new, and shiny stiff such as colored pencils, eraser, ruler, crayons, scribblers, dull scissors, glue, and maybe even a pack to stuff them all in just in time for next morning. There wasn’t a whole lot of extra money in those days, so if you were lucky enough to have big brothers or sisters you would likely have to make do with hand me downs of both school supplies and clothes.

As we had been reminded for most of the summer, for the first time in our young lives we would have to learn to sit and be quiet and listen for long periods of time, keep our desks tidy, try to get along with others, and put up our hand if we had a question or needed to go to the bathroom. Bells and buzzers also came into our new world of learning, beckoning us for recesses, lunchtime,and finally when it was time to go home at 3:30 p.m. Depending where we lived around town or out in the country, many of us got to ride the big yellow school bus every day, while others walked with a buddy, or rode their bikes if the weather was good, hitching them up to the big rack with our trusty padlocks.

So how much has it really changed?

Enough with the nostalgia of our days at school, which most of us will admit were the best years of our young lives, and the stepping stone to our future. Most of us were pretty shy about mixing with the masses but it didn’t take long for us to discover that girls weren’t really too bad, and boys were nice to have around, especially if they had their own set of wheels. Speaking to that, I guess most bike racks have now been replaced by parking lots for kids with cars, scribblers and books have been replaced by laptops, and the junior high fraternity will now share lockers and walk the Ponoka Comp walk with the grades 10, 11 and 12 students. All students will always work hard to get a sports letter, I got mine in ping pong but I got the biggest rush out of the cheer squads.

I found it hard to believe when I read the other day that sending a student back to school for another year in the 21st century has now reached an average cost to parents of $537 for elementary students, $763 for middle school, and $1,200 for high school. The opportunity of receiving an education is the most vital investment in the future of our children of course but does that also include their wardrobe, extra school activities, and pocket money for gas and the lunch run?

Whatever the case, for as far back as it goes, the joy and need of going to school to achieve the knowledge of the 3 Rs and all the rest has and always will be an outstanding tradition for ongoing generations of every Canadian family. Thanks to our province, our municipalities and our school boards we have been blessed with excellent schools, teaching staffs and educational courses and programs, of which we need to take full advantage.

Now let’s have a little back to school fun — from the mouths of students.

• The first day of school is great because we get no homework.

• Teachers always seem so happy in class and that is because they are getting paid to be there and we kids have to do it all for free.

• Mom’s always like to buy sensible school clothes — the kind that they only sell in the “Junior Nerd” section.

• Mother: “What did you learn in school today?” Daughter: “How to talk without moving my lips.”

• Dear Students: “I know when you are texting in class, because seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.”

• ”I think my teacher loves me. Just look at all those Xs on my test paper.”

For the next 10 months our streets will be filled with excited boys and girls dashing to and from school, so please drive carefully, enjoy the weekday silence at home between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and have a great week, all of you!