I don’t know exactly when it happened, but we’ve come to make the journey of “going back to school” into the most miserable experience imaginable. There once was a time when kids were enthusiastic about going to school or returning to school. There was a real excitement about new shoes, bright new clothes, new book bags and pencils or pens. There were fresh, unsullied booklets and binders. We’d put paper bag or team sport covers on our books. We looked forward to seeing friends who lived too far away to see during summer. There was a certain joy about returning to class led by a favorite teacher.
Parents participated in this “tone at the top.” They’d use this time to teach us how to organize ourselves for the school. They’d coach us to polish our shoes and put them near the door. They’d run down first-day-of-school checklists: Did we have this? Did we pack that? Was our lunch or lunch money ready?
Today, every cartoon in our local paper broadcasts the imminent misery of going back to school. Advertisers are conditioning our kids to counter the prospective misery by buying up and over-dressing to compensate for the tedium of school days ahead. As a consequence, why are we surprised that kids today act out that negativism in disruptive, aggressive, and sometimes bullying behaviors?
The prospect of a positive learning experience has been exchanged for this negative hype. Misery loves company, so every mention of back to school becomes a downer.
If we want kids to be enthusiastic about their learning experiences at school, we will have to set the “tone at the top” and close down the negativity. Going back to school needs to become, once again, an exciting, positive, productive learning experience.