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(Not) Back to School

For students and teachers, and a great many families, it is "Back-to-School" month. In many states, school starts in August, while there are a few that still stubbornly cling to a post-Labor Day start. Like most Americans, I view back-to-school as the real start of a new year. For the last six years, I bought new notebooks, pencils, pens, and even crayons for the start of school. Last week, I caught myself wandering the "seasonal" displays at Target and Walmart with a sense of nostalgia.

I am ambivalent.

I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I will miss the school year. And yet, I'll never miss teaching what I was teaching or being a student where I studied.

I did not like my four years as a doctoral student. With the exception of the third year, during which I had no classes and was not yet trying the job market, would have been the only acceptable year -- I was left alone to read and teach. However, I ended up hospitalized with serious medical problems that year. The medical issues with my vision, internal bleeding, et cetera, ruined the one year of peace I might have enjoyed.

There is the constant thought that I should have studied within another discipline, or at least another department. There is the hope that I will be able to craft a career in the creative aspects of media, which I love. My degree is merely evidence that I can work unsupervised. I'm not sure what else it proves.

I know I have a lot I could offer students. What I don't know is when, where, or even what I might teach in the future.

For now, I will write and write and write. I will be my own student and teacher, assisted by hundreds of books, magazines, movies, music, and the Internet.

Maybe I'll use the crayons along the way, after all.


  1. I just wanted to say that I love your blog. I read every post twice or even four or five times. I've just put you on my front page not to miss a post, because my dashboard often makes problems...we have some things in common, maybe I'll email you someday.

  2. I think that kids up to high school graduation should have all of June, July, and August off! Childhood should be for learning and playing.

    I really wish you success in finding a position, despite the ~10% unemployment figures. You sound like you would be a great teacher, there should be something, somewhere...

  3. "My degree is merely evidence that I can work unsupervised. I'm not sure what else it proves."

    Hopefully this won't be as temporary for you as it was for me.

  4. You are not the only one who feels the same way. I am in school and I will be receiving my associates. It's fine and I'm thankful but I have no idea what to do for a bachelors. People tell me this and that. There is no answer.

    I see the young men and women, just out of high school and they all look kinda shell shocked. The market is so different.

    I think it's great that you have the opportunity to write. I "found" you through your writing blog. It is excellent.

    I will pray that you find your way.

  5. Clay: A lot of research has found low-income students fall behind not during the school year, but during summers. During summer months, some parents take children to libraries, museums, famous places, et cetera. These children are also more likely to travel on vacation. The fortunate students learn a lot during summers, but other students sit at home and play video games.

    My mother works at a low-income school, mainly non-native English speakers (Spanish dominates). When the school was year-round, the test scores improved dramatically. Year-round is still 185 days, but they take one-month breaks every quarter. When the school returned to "traditional" schedule, scored fell the very first year and are now match scores at similar schools.

    There are many parents in jobs without paid vacations. These children at least eat semi-well (school menus are lousy) and are supervised at school. Nothing is sadder than a child saying that he or she spends summer alone, inside, where it is "safe." California and other states aren't going to invest in community programs or parks -- not any time soon. (Broke is broke.) Schools can serve as great summer places. It should be an option, but many districts don't even offer fee-based summer programs anymore.

    I hated summers. I despised being home during summers, in 110 heat (Central California) doing very little. We lived in a rural area, which meant there were few options. I would have given anything for school to be an option. I did take summer school during high school, but they offered very few classes.

  6. Hmmm, I remember that I spent my summers of Junior High, between 7th and 8th, 8th and 9th, mostly inside, never playing with others, because I had been "shell-shocked" by the way my classmates had changed. Everything was a "popularity contest", and I had no idea of the rules.

    The last couple of weeks of summer, I would have nightmares about going back to school. The teachers always did a month or so of "refresher" teaching, but I didn't need it. Just another way I was very different, I guess.

  7. I forgot to mention, I use a laser light playing with my cat, too. While he lies some distance away sleeping, I can make all sorts of different noises, but when I click on that laser, his head jerks up to look at me! It isn't very loud, but he hears it and is ready to play. After several months, he still hasn't figured it out.

  8. Best of luck, my friend. Which seems a strange thing to say in that we have never met and may never do so. Still… you give me hope and I hope the best for you.



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