Back To School Edition! Nothing used to chafe my son more than the creeping nature of that autumnal ritual of advertising for backpacks, lunchboxes, spiral notebooks and all things that cried, "Summer's over!" I tried to explain to him that in his earliest years his father worked for a year-round school. This system had students rotating through the calendar with three months on and one month off. In my initial tenure at Horace Mann, I was working steadily throughout the year, taking a couple of weeks in the summer around my birthday and the Fourth of July. The rest of the year I was getting up five days a week and going to school.
Even this somewhat arduous schedule was still a relief from that of running a book warehouse. I was getting a week off for spring break, and another two at Christmastime. It still felt like I was getting away with something, and I never fully understood how my colleagues could just go away for a month, returning just in time to pick up where they had left off.
The reason for all this shifting of students and teachers was that the neighborhood we served was full and overflowing with kids. In order to meet all their needs, it was necessary to move them about like a hundred canaries in a cage with only fifty perches. As the years passed and the number of canaries dropped to a more manageable level, year-round school became a relic of the past, not unlike the Palmer Method. I have lived through several of these epochs, and as I meander into my summer "vacation," I feel wary of the way that time around me is stretching and compressing. As with every break, every weekend, every day off, there are not enough hours to feel fully recharged, completely rested, prepared to go back to school.
Which makes me wonder about retirement. Which makes me worry about what happens when school really is out forever. All that anarchic spirit Alice Cooper sang about will only lead to boredom. Or a postgraduate degree.