The anticipation of learning makes a new school year special

Stepping onto the Westwood campus as children return to school brought back memories. That first day often results in conflicting emotions because summer vacation ends, but the start of a new school year is filled with the anticipation of new learning opportunities set to unfold.

My memories include pushing feet that walked barefoot for three months into new shoes; choosing one of my new outfits purchased when my Mom took us “school shopping.”

While the emotional aspects of school may be similar, I read on the Internet the educational experience is changing in many ways. Apparently, the pencil sharpener, which was screwed to the wall in my classroom, will soon be a thing of the past as electronic tablets and computers replace paper and pencils. The blackboard, which became a greenboard, then whiteboard, is also becoming obsolete. One of my favorite activities was diagramming sentences on those boards at the front of the classroom … calculating math problems not so much.

With some quick research, I learned slate blackboards were first manufactured in the 1840s and the green chalkboards, made of porcelain enamel on a steel base, began production in the 1960s. Whiteboards, also known as dry-erase boards, grew in popularity in the 1990s.

I wasn’t surprised to learn film projectors were becoming obsolete. This equipment always brings to mind the antics of a couple boys at my school who would warm small balls of clay over the projector during the film (once our teacher nodded out) and throw them at the screen.

It wasn’t surprising to hear that cursive handwriting is on its way out. Learning to type on a computer keyboard would most likely be more productive.

It was surprising to learn that recess was disappearing from the schedule at many schools. Some of my best memories center on this time outside the classroom. I went to a small elementary school in the country and the playground was at least four times the size of the school building. This provided plenty of space for games. We would play no boundaries dodge ball where the person who was “it” chased people until they were in range to hit them with the ball. We also played tag on a jungle gym with rules that prohibited participants from touching the ground, instead we were required to swing from bar to bar. Often when you fell you would have the wind knocked out of you and not be able to get up off the ground quickly.

One reason schools are dropping recess, is the liability incurred if a child is injured. Also, the inability to find suitable playground supervisors is causing the elimination of recess. Frankly, I don’t remember being supervised during recess. The pressure to achieve good test scores is another reason more time is being spent in the classroom. Testing … the only test that sticks with me is one taken in high school. It was a French final that required a conversation with my teacher to demonstrate my fluency.

Curriculum, schedules and teaching techniques may change over the decades, but the basic experience of school does not. This time of year there are a multitude of articles posted on the Internet about the start of a new school year. One was a photo story of the first day of school in countries around the world. Although the clothing and classrooms differed the expressions on children’s faces did not. All were anticipating the adventure before them, the adventure of learning new things.