'Strong Thoughts: Keeping a positive back-to-school mindset
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Aug 03, 2014 | 1167 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It is officially back-to-school season.

Some students might be eagerly awaiting the school year’s start, while other students might be longing for summer to last just a little longer. Some also have mixed feelings about going to back to school.

Back-to-school season has always presented me with mixed feelings.

Growing up in Cleveland, there was neither excitement nor dread about going back to school.

I was home schooled from kindergarten to 12th grade, and my school year schedule did not look like most.

The start and end dates of the school year depended on factors like when my family was planning to go on vacation.

It was not unusual for my family to make cross-country jaunts to visit good friends in Colorado (my dad’s home state) for vacation in the fall after school had started back for most. My parents said they liked to avoid the crowds, and I didn’t object to us making “field trips” to places like art museums and the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Boulder while those places were not especially busy.

It was not until I reached college that I began to understand the mix of excitement and end-of-vacation dread that some students face before the first day of school in the fall.

As a college freshman, I remember being very excited about actually having an excuse to go shopping for a new binder, a backpack and a dorm room bedspread.

Now that I have graduated and found myself working as an education reporter, some of the friends who were studying with me during that freshman year are now working as teachers in neighboring counties and states.

As I have gotten to discuss back-to-school plans with my friends and teachers I have met while reporting for the newspaper, I have learned that the back-to-school season can elicit a range of emotions for teachers as well.

One summer, just as I was finishing up my senior year of college, I helped an older friend of mine clean out her very first classroom at the end of the year.

She was a high school Spanish teacher in Hamilton County who had to deal with inner-city concerns like students with suspected gang affiliations threatening violence. She said she made a point of telling them that she was unafraid because she taught the martial art of Tae Kwon Do before she taught Spanish (which was 100 percent true).

Our conversations covered everything from how she decorated her room and how her Drama Club students were doing to more serious matters like those threats and what the recently announced Common Core standards might mean for the school.

She said one thing she realized during her first year was that teaching took courage.

It was not all creating silly songs and skits to teach students a new language or picking out shiny new school supplies; it was also trying to make a difference in the lives of students who did not even want to be in school some days.

It was facing new challenges each day and going back to face the possibility of more challenges the next day.

Still, she said she would be looking forward to starting back to school in the fall after a well-deserved (but surprisingly short) summer break. While there had been some tough times, she saw teaching as her “calling.” 

I have met many teachers who have expressed such mixed feelings and desires to stick around to make a difference.

Some people have the unique quality of wanting to teach students to be the best they can be — even if those efforts aren’t met with much enthusiasm.

That leads me to believe that, whether you are a student or a teacher or something else entirely, that the new year is an exciting thing if you don’t let last year’s experiences keep you from looking forward to new ones.

There is a reason both students and teachers go back to school each year — to learn or to teach.

While there may be some mixed feelings involved, the new year can be however positive or negative a teacher or student wants it to be. Just like a student growing in his or her knowledge, each new year has potential.

I recently spoke with a local school principal who expressed his appreciation for the support the community has shown his school, and he said everyone should know they have a role in ensuring students are ready to learn when they start back.

By making sure they are taught that what they are doing in school matters, the community can encourage students to succeed.

On that same token, I believe we can also encourage our local teachers to keep doing what they are trying to do — to help students grow into successful adults. After all, it is not at all an easy job.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a neighbor or a student yourself, put away any mixed feelings about the new school year and replace them with something else.

Focus on the promise the new school year can bring, and that can help keep things in perspective when the challenges do arise. The fact that teachers have been impacting the lives of students for years tells me that keeping a positive attitude where school is concerned is totally worth the effort.