Eight Twenty

“Eight twenty” is the beginning of the end… the end of summer, that is.  I retired after thirty-five years in the classroom. Add nearly twenty years for my own education. That is a lot of back to school preparations. Since I married a teacher, even when I was at home as a full-time mom, there was still a countdown for back to school.

When I was still teaching, the end of August was time to really appreciate the summer weather and the remaining hours of leisure. Because come Labor Day, I was back on the treadmill, and you couldn’t get off until Canada Day the following June. Schedules, calendars, meetings. The need for time-management skills, for energy and patience, for commitment… no excuses, no procrastination.

This is not a complaint. I loved teaching and still miss it dearly. I loved the challenge and excitement, the energizing effect of being part of a vibrant school community. I was often tired, but never, ever, bored. I will choose fatigue over boredom every time!

During these late summer days, beginning with”eight twenty”, it was always a flurry of activity to get bedtimes and alarm times and meal times in transition back to a rigorous routine, to finish household chores like deep cleaning and organizing work spaces, and to get myself, my two sons, and my husband outfitted for the coming season.

The men in my family HATE shopping! But jeans that fit the boys in May became “flood pants” over the summer, and my husband always needed new trousers and a blazer or sports jacket. Socks. Underwear. This was my annual opportunity to drag them to the mall, among the throngs of other reluctantly protesting procrastinators. Why was this MY responsibility? It wasn’t! But just ask any Mom and Wife about the consequences of NOT doing it.

The following week I devoted to school… opening the classroom, doing inventory, checking timetables and class lists, informal meetings, preparing my day book and lessons for the first week, catching up on summer news with my colleagues.

Labor Day is really the first day in the new year. It annoys me that manufacturers of pocket agendas don’t recognize that fact. EVERYTHING starts again… and I need a calendar that reflects that. Maybe it’s time to move into the modern era and get something more high-tech!

So, all the best to the teachers out there, and to families with school age children!

I will be thinking of you… with more than a little bit of envy and nostalgia, while I take my second cup of coffee out to the garden and read another hundred pages of my novel. I do not intend to sew on buttons, hem pants, wash and iron, or shop at any time this week. But if I happen to see them in the drug store, I may buy a new box of Crayola crayons… some traditions are too satisfying to ignore.

I earned this leisure and I intend to enjoy it!

What are your memories of the end of summer? Bringing in a harvest? Closing the cottage? Heading home from camp?  Working frantically to finish summer projects? Packing to go back to college? Squeezing in a week of fun after stopping your summer job? Transition time… or more of the same?

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3 Responses to Eight Twenty

  1. debbierodgers says:

    I worked in finance so summer didn’t ever mean two months leisure to me.

    It meant running short-staffed through holidays, coping with the heat & trying to find suitable accommodation for my daughter. I always met Labour Day with a sigh of relief – because it truly is the first day of year, and a fresh start for everything.

    • motleydragon says:

      Hi, good to hear from you again!

      Yes, I know how difficult it can be for working moms when they have to find summer accommodation or supervision for their children. My daughter –in-law has faced this often. Summer “camps”, and I don’t mean sleep-away, but stay-at-home sports camp, dance camp, arts camp, music camp are very expensive, require transportation to and from, and are scattered all over the city. They also fill up quickly, and the children face new teachers and a new peer group every week… challenging for everyone.

      Our older schools were built with high large windows to maximize, winter heat and light. These windows could barely be opened… a safety precaution. The classrooms are simply brutal in hot weather… I never taught in an air-conditioned school. I think we should have classes year round, with a week off between each of four terms. It would be better for everyone, but I don’t think it will happen because of the problems with older buildings.

      In one school where I taught, the Board finally approved a window air-conditioner to protect the new computers in a “lab” that had been cobbled together in a former supply room. (The children sat, three to a computer, taking turns to learn “keyboarding skills.”) Every time someone used the Xerox machine in the office below, the circuits would blow! But by June, copier paper was rationed… one package per teacher every two weeks… so the machine was used less and the cooler lab was used more. Some days we really missed the old hand-cranked machines for purple dittos.

      Your children and my grandchildren probably had pretty good summers, but children living in poverty or in the inner city where recreational facilities are limited have a very hard time. I was a playground supervisor at an inner city park one summer. We had little equipment and no expendable resources. They were long, very long days. July was bearable. In August every day was a struggle to find something novel and fun, that could be done outside in the blazing sun, that would amuse a wide variety of ages and personalities, that was FREE, and that would kill a lot of time!

      Do keep in touch… and enjoy the rest of the summer!

  2. debbierodgers says:

    That old school with big windows – that’s the kind I went to, of course. I remember teachers opening the transoms to try to get some air. I think it would be a grand idea to make schools comfortable year round and have school year round, too (with breaks of course). 😉

    My daughter went to a few day camps over the years but, as you say, they were expensive and stressful. Most of the time, she visited her grandparents, and aunts & uncles, one week at a time. She stayed longer at her grandparents – she was the only grandchild for several years, so was sort of a pet. It was not unusual for me to not see her for six weeks at a stretch – and to worry about her constantly. I’m glad those days have passed.

    ANYWAY – I think I’ll pick up a new pack of crayons next time I’m in the village and save them for Labour Day, to celebrate the new year. Enjoy the rest of your summer too!

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