A familiar sound has returned. The wind carries the brassy notes and errant cymbals of practice through my neighborhood as a nearby high school's marching band tunes up for football Fridays. I think (hope) they're supposed to be playing "Hotline Bling," but they don't quite have it down.
The aisle blockers at Target and Walmart are no longer on the hunt for Pokémon. Instead, they're diving into racks of white polos and navy khakis. They're checking off items on a wrinkled sheet of paper as they count out glue sticks, red pens, five-subject notebooks, and three-ring binders.
It's a little endearing to see the supply list still going strong, in spite of the technology that's come around since my mom and I argued over Lisa Frank folders way back when. I wrongly assumed Amazon would put an end to the pageantry of school shopping and those parent-child showdowns in front of the backpacks. "Are you SURE this is the one you want? I'm not buying you a new bookbag when you decide you don't like (insert whatever the kids are into these days here) anymore."
Last Wednesday I even received an email at work assuring me that it's "not too late to think about back to school for my retail clients." Actually, marketing automation software vendor, it is. Now that the conventions are over, television is one long commercial with some tweens dancing in front of lockers. Because it's that time again.
Some schools are already back in session. But the school year really kicks off in a few days when our Instagram and Facebook feeds will be overtaken by the images of drowsy children wearing brand new sneakers and toting lunch boxes that likely won't make it past Christmas break before being forgotten on the playground. "My First Day of Third Grade!" a Pinterest-inspired placard reads. "OMG third grade already? I can't believe she is so grown up! It seems like she was in diapers just yesterday! Heart eyes emoji" our mutual friends will remark in the comments.
I can list about a million things I do not miss about school. Math and science rank high on that list, followed by undressing for gym class and then participating in gym class. Most of all, it saddens me that there is no "adult life" equivalent to the new beginning that is the First Day of School. Until high school, when "cumulative GPA" becomes part of the equation Day One is Square One. Everybody's got straight A's on the first day. It's a chance to make a first impression on a new batch of potential friends and on the teacher, who, by the way, is holding it all together even though she has no idea which student is which.
My teacher friends are my heroes for so many reasons. They spend their summer "vacations" planning, attending workshops, and cramming in as much time as they can with their own children before they re-dedicate their lives to educating other people's. I don't know how they do it. Never mind the long hours, inadequate pay, the administrative responsibilities, and paperwork — the mere thought of spending seven or so hours a day with a roomful of kids and their questions terrifies me. Especially during this bizarro election year. Isn't there, on some level, a moral obligation to discuss it, at least in social studies class? How do you simplify for a child a series of events that defy logic for adults? What do you do if some kid says something like "Donald Trump is going to make America great again"?
I don't know how I would respond. Wait, yes I do. I'd say something rude like, "Well it's a good thing you're too young to vote, because even the members of his own party don't believe that." Or I'd accidentally let slip an F-bomb. Then the kid would go home and tell his parents, and that would be the end of my career. That right there is why I could never be a teacher.
So here's to you, patient and saintly educators. And here's to you, parents, as you finalize carpool plans and try to figure out why your child needs to provide six boxes of Kleenex and 40 reams of printer paper. And, to the students, good luck. Pick out your clothes the night before, get a good night's sleep, and make sure you eat breakfast. Don't get lost, and try not to do anything that will earn you an embarrassing nickname that lasts your entire life. Go get 'em.
Jen Clarke is an unapologetic Memphian and digital marketing strategist.