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Back to School’ does not mean July

It seems to me the print ads and TV advertisements for “Back to School” promotions are seen earlier every year. Many local students completed the school year at the end of May. But there were already ads for school in July.

From the standpoint of a kid, I would find that kind of depressing. But just last week as I drove to work, I saw kids walking to school. Yellow school buses were picking up students. Again, I don’t think I could get that excited about going to school when the weather was around 92 degrees with the usual Chicago-style humidity.

If I were going to school today that would mean I would be in a classroom for my birthday. That would have been unheard of during my days at school. Being born late in August, I was still assured of having a least another week of summer vacation. Now I would be sitting in a classroom on most likely a hot summer day.

Not only that, but I would have probably started school as early as Aug. 15. My line of thinking means that these kids will miss out on some days lounging at a local pool or going downtown to see some of our local sights.

I attended a Chicago Public School when I was very young. I don’t remember getting out of school in the middle of June. My parents had me transferred to a Catholic grade school (St. John De La Salle and later St. Margaret of Scotland in Chicago) and I would complete the school year the first week of June. Believe me, at that point I had one foot out the door looking forward to a summer of baseball, hanging out with friends, and some summer vacations with my family.

The days were becoming a little warmer as well. That was enough to make me eager to close my text books and spend some leisurely summer days to myself. Those three months seemed like an eternity to me now. Back then, I probably didn’t think it was long enough.

I viewed teachers as tortured souls who enjoyed sitting in classrooms all day. Now that I have gotten older and have talked to teachers, I found out that they were no different than me as a kid. Many of them are eager for some time off of the daily schedule of trying to teach young minds, give tests and quizzes, pass out homework assignments and grade papers and tests.

I guess I did not view teachers as human. They are no different than us. Now that I’m older, I look at teaching as a rewarding profession. I respect what they do for a living. Not all teachers work in the greatest environments so they deserve respect. The majority of teachers I have met enjoy what they do and pride themselves on igniting a flame that makes students become more curious and grasp the importance of knowledge.

I can’t say that flame was always on for me. My mind often drifted. But I always did well enough because I enjoyed reading. Eventually I finally got it. A good education can provide more options for kids. That is one thing that has not changed.

Some schools still do start the day after Labor Day. Chicago Public School students will arrive to school that day, unless there is a teacher’s strike. Back when I went to school, everybody started in September after Labor Day.

First of all, it was just practical. The weather is significantly different in September. The nights are cooler and the days are becoming shorter. We can experience hot days in September and even October. But the nights will always be cooler.

We did not have central air-conditioning in schools during those days. We did not even have portable air conditioners. Beginning school in August just seemed unnatural to us. Yes, some kids had to go to summer school. But we figured that was part of their punishment. A lot of fans would get a workout at these schools.

But times change and students are required to be in school a certain amount of days. Schools begin sooner due to a number of reasons. In the Chicago area, that could mean our unpredictable weather patterns. We had a relatively mild winter last year but that doesn’t mean we will be that lucky this time around. Days off due to winter snowstorms will mean that kids will have to go to school longer at the end of the year.

But I still believe kids go back to school too early. I think kids should be allowed to enjoy a full summer. Of course, some parents may have a different opinion.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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