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Tell Me a Story - Back To School

Jessica Rolph | August 11, 2019

I

t’s back to school time. On my way into work last week, the yellow school buses were making their August debut. Kids were once again waiting at the end of driveways, decked out in their new school clothes and shoes, swinging backpacks and lunchboxes around as they wondered what this school year would bring.

My youngest child is starting Kindergarten this year. She’ll be the oldest one in the class, having missed the birthday cut off last year by only three days. While my oldest is shy and sweet tempered, my youngest will likely try to lead the class alongside her teacher for the first few days. After that, she’ll try to teach by herself, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Still, going back to school often leaves the little ones nervous. Will they like their teacher? Will they make friends in their new class? Will any of their current friends be in their class? And will they be able to do the work? Will any of it make sense?

I walked into the school with my daughters a couple of weeks ago for registration. Every time I stroll into a school, it’s the smell that brings back the memories. It’s a mixture of old books, art supplies, and hand soap. This nostalgic aroma sends me back to my elementary school years. My daughters, anxious about their approaching dive into education, want to know what it was like, way back then. Did we still have recess? Being a parent, I’m capable of taking those offhand remarks on my status as ancient in stride. Besides, they were asking for a story. Here’s what I told them.

When I was in elementary school, it was very similar to what it’s like today. We didn’t have spirit week or pajamas days, but we did dress up for Halloween and have costume contests. We had a morning and an afternoon recess, everybody loved gym class, and you always felt special when you had a new outfit to wear to school.

My favorite year of elementary school was fourth grade. I attended Indian Heights Elementary, and Mrs. Laughlin was my teacher. She was in her fifties, I believe, and her class loved her. She wasn’t an easy teacher—she’d been at it too long to be a pushover. When she saw notes being passed or kids whispering together during a lesson, she was apt to make a public example out of their bad behavior. I was on the receiving end of her corrections more than once. But she was also quick to smile and laugh. She believed in her kids—she knew we could learn what we needed to learn. And she taught each of us at our level, and in the way that was best for us. We’d have math races on the chalkboard, and I still have the small board she gave to me as a trophy for winning one of those races. And she told the best stories, whether they were about science or history, or during reading hour. Those stories made the lessons more than something we had to do—they became something we looked forward to.

I could tell my girls were excited and nervous about this school year, and I’ll be sending them off on their educational journey with my own mixed emotions. School, after all, is a big part of growing up, and it starts, little by little, even as early as Kindergarten. But with teachers like Mrs. Laughlin, I know that they’re in good hands, and will soon be coming home with stories of their own to share. Until next week, from First Farmers Bank & Trust, I’m Jess, and I’m listening.