Depending on where you live, students are back in school or counting down the days until it happens. I asked our team to share some of their memories about back to school—from when they were a student or a teacher—intending to make a top 10 list. But the memories, ranging from covering books in paper bags to the smell of the photocopier running were too good for me to stop at 10. So today I present you with our Top Ten Times Two List of Back to School Memories (otherwise known as a Top 20).
Our memories of back to school when we were students:
1. I used to love covering my textbooks in brown paper bags at the start of each school year. I’d spend the rest of the school year covering them in doodles—yes I was a student who would have benefitted from personalized learning and some rigorous digital content.
2. I remember being worried about who would be in my class—not just who my teachers would be, but which friends would be in class with me.
3. I used to be super excited about the new school stuff! New pencils, new notebooks, new textbooks, sometimes new computers, and perhaps most exciting of all, new outfits for back to school!
4. My favorite thing about back to school was shopping for new clothes—my mom was always really generous and I loved finding the perfect back to school outfit. I also loved the surprise notes my mom always included in my lunchbox with the daily ‘surprise’ lunch items—great memories!
5. The start of the school year always meant the return of my favorite food item—fruit snacks! My mother refused to buy these during the summer but my sister and I could always convince her that they were an essential school snack. I continue honor this love of fruit snacks by bringing them to all of my schools’ PD sessions.
6. The first day of school is always a fresh start full of newness. New notebooks, crisp that have never been open. Pens and pencils with erasers that are still intact, pen caps that are still attached. New faces in your classroom. New teacher. New start.
7. The start of school was always a good time to reflect on my summer. It always seemed as though years had passed during those 2.5 months away from school, that my summer adventures made me much more mature, smarter, stronger. I remember journal assignments that encouraged that retrospection, encouraging a quick look back to plan the year moving forward.
8. For me the first day of school was all about logistics – where’s my locker? How early do I have to get to school to get to my locker and then to 1st period on time? How many classes will I have in a row before I can get back to my locker to switch books? What’s the fastest route from 2nd to 3rd period? It’s like moving into a new house and figuring out what you’re new routines will be. Overwhelming but exciting too!
9. Back to school is always aspirational. Like New Year’s resolutions, I always wanted to do better and maybe in too many things. It was also really hard to get back into the routine of school after taking close to three months off. I would always start off strong in the front of the class and by year’s end want to be in the back of the class. For me it would have been easier to have a year-round school year.
10. I always felt vaguely cheated that summer, which everyone referred to as three months, was actually two and a half months. However, a new start always presented an exciting chance to reinvent yourself, even if it also presented homework. I squeezed in my last unfettered summer hangouts. I agonized over picking the right electives. Most importantly, I resolved to be smarter, more charming, and better looking than the previous year, which I always felt had set the bar pretty low. My New Year’s resolutions had nothing on my school year resolutions.
11. In elementary school, my school would post the class rosters on a window of the school about a week or so before classes began. The day these rosters went up was an exciting one. Everyone would go visit the school that day, gathering friends and family to make a trip to see who got what teacher, who would get to spend the next school year with their friends, and who would have to make new classroom buddies. It was a stressful time, as rumors about various teachers spread among parents and students alike. One particular memory stands out in my mind. It was a big year, as it was fifth grade, and many of the teachers were known to be tough. As we walked up to the school building, my two closest friends, who lived on my street and with whom I had spent the summer, walked next to me. All of us hoping the same thing, that we would all be placed in the same class. We knew that we would survive the year, regardless of what teacher we were placed with, if we were together. It just so happened that the school thought the same thing! We were placed together! It was a great year, and although the three of us ended up gaining new friend groups as we went to middle school the following year, we had a great time in 5th grade, and I will never forget the thrill of walking with those two to see the rosters that decided our fate for the following year.
12. As a parent of a 5th grader, back to school is exciting and nerve-racking. Who will be my son’s teachers? Will he bond and respond to his teachers? Will any of his friends be in his class? How will he do this year? etc. When he comes home after the first day of school all smiles with a backpack full of homework, I relax and remember that the year will be full of learning moments both fun and sometimes painful, exactly what he needs.
13. As a student, the first week of school was always so draining after a long relaxing summer. But there was one teacher who made hanging in until the end of the day worth it. He would always play ‘Come On, Get Happy’ by the Partridge Family right before bell rang for dismissal, and I remember gathering outside his door to sing along with my classmates before running to carpool.
14. I remember always being excited about the start of a new school year—new supplies, new clothes, new teachers. I loved getting to see most of my friends in one place every day again, talking about how our summers were and what we looked forward to. I was also very struck by how quickly time passed, where every new school year seemed to arrive faster and faster. That part actually hasn’t changed (‘It’s back-to-school time already?!’). And then, when we were teachers:
15. I remember the stomach knots that always came before the first day of school. I would wake up at 3am, stare at my white tiled ceiling, and practice my welcome speech over and over again until my alarm rang at six.
16. I remember looking over my student rosters again and again, willing myself to memorize every name before I even had a face to put to it, so every student would feel known and important.
17. At the start of school, I would have spent a week arranging my room and bulletin boards. I would have spent a month tinkering with my unit plans and essential questions. I was nervously awaiting my new students, excited for my new systems and routines, and hopeful focusing on our classroom culture would provide that safe environment for great ‘aha’ moments.
18. I remember the warmth of the fresh copies coming off the machine. To me, fresh copies have a distinctive and relaxing odor. (I fully recognize that other people might see this as strange, and I’m happy to own it.)
19. I remember countless trips to crafts stores and teacher supplies stores to make sure I got my room just right, so that the moment my students entered my room, they knew magic was going to happen there.
20. I remember the first day of my first year of teaching. The sound of my heels on the linoleum as I paced waiting for the bell to ring made me think of my first grade teacher, who I had adored. I was immediately gripped by fear. Would my students love me too?
Have a memory to share? Let us know @edelements #back2school
Amy Jenkins is the VP of Marketing at Education Elements, an organization that works closely with districts, states, and foundations to create classrooms that personalize the learning experience through the use of technology.
This post first appeared at www.edelements.com