Back to school

Michael Boylan's picture

My son starts Pre-K next Monday. As most parents out there probably can guess, especially if they have gone through this themselves, my wife and I are more excited and nervous than Colin is. We have been running practices to get up and out of the house earlier so he makes it to school on time, have gone back to school shopping and are going to an orientation tonight. I’m glad we get to meet the teacher because I’m not sure exactly what Pre-K involves. Pre-K is pre-kindergarten, but I never really thought that children needed preparation for kindergarten. I had always assumed kindergarten was preparation in itself.

I don’t even know what kindergarten involves because I never went to kindergarten. Before a movement starts to disregard my high school diploma and college degree, let me explain. When I was five I attended a private school that ran a Montessori program. I don’t remember a lot about it, except that I did some school plays, went on a cool field trip to a beach and was doing basic algebra. The school was too expensive though so I went to public school starting in first grade and had a blast.

I hope Colin, and Nora when she is old enough to go, love school as much as I did. I met a lot of good friends in school, had excellent teachers and truly laid the groundwork for the person I am today. When I was in school, I loved doing plays and reading and writing. Today, I write for a paper, try my hand at writing novels and, before we had two kids, did plays with a local theater.

I can remember being scared a few times though. The basement of our elementary school, where the cafeteria (and the kindergarten come to think of it) was old, dark and scary. The entrance to the boiler room was across from the cafeteria and on cold, winter days the pipes would clang and echo through the halls. Nobody dilly-dallyed in the bathrooms down there. My fourth grade teacher scared me too. Until fourth grade, I had the teachers wrapped around my fingers and received a lot of adulation. Mrs. Boutin challenged me (how dare she?) and my parents were called in for a teacher conference. I probably expected the world to end, but it didn’t. My ship was righted and fourth grade eventually came to an end.

As much as kids might bemoan the “end of summer,” I’m sure a large percent of them are happy to go back to school and reconnect with their friends. School, for all of the work it involves and all of the lazy freedoms of summer that it takes away, is a great place. Some classes might not be as exciting as others and the passion for learning may not be very strong on some days, but to get an education in as wide a variety of subjects as one does K-12 is awesome in the truest sense of the word.

Throughout my education there were projects or lessons that completely captured me. That feeling of learning something and understanding its impact on me and the world in general is irreplacable and I envy the thousands of students who will get to experience that this year. Occasionally an adult may catch that feeling again, but it is rare. If I can pass on one piece of advice it is this, you never know just what will move you, so be open to everything.

You might think that a particular class or teacher will be what you remember and always take with you, only to find that an art project or a science fair or a semester long study and discussion of World War II stays with you.

This column makes it sound like I was a fantastic student. I think I was. Not because I got good grades (they were actually pretty uneven in high school) but because I was eager to learn and willing to listen. For instance, math was never my forte and I butted heads with a lot of math teachers over the years because they could never teach me the way I needed to learn. Occasionally though, I found a class or a teacher or tutor that could help me and it made all the difference in the world.

Have fun this year. Open yourself up to everything your school has to offer and learn as much as you can. You will look back on these days and be amazed at everything that was at your fingertips, everything that you remember and all of the things you wish you had held on to.

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