It’s either the most wonderful time of the year ... or the most dreaded, depending on whether you’re a parent who’s spent the summer refereeing your children, or you’re the child, teacher, or bus driver that’s gearing up for nine months of cerebral combat.

Yep, it’s back-to-school time.

No more sleeping in, staying up late, or slouching around in pajamas all day. It’s time to dust off your alarm clock, memorize your schedule, and agonize over which outfit you’ll wear on the first day. And if you show up wearing what somebody else is wearing, it’s guaranteed instant mortification and the end of the world. Unless you’re a guy, and then for some reason it’s cool.

Returning to the same school you attended the previous year isn’t so bad because you know the layout and some of the staff. But if you’re facing a new school with total strangers on the payroll, it can make you feel like a rat in a maze. And as we all know, there’s no time to dawdle and lollygag in the halls. When that bell rings between classes, it’s like Black Friday shopping, with everybody trying to go in all directions, over the top of everybody else.

No, I don’t miss that.

I did my time, back in the day, and I was my own worst enemy, preferring to doodle in my notebook rather than take notes and pay attention. That caused me to fail the sixth-grade, and I had to take summer school to keep up. Add to this the fact that my family moved from another state and I didn’t know anybody, plus it was junior high school, combined with the onslaught of puberty, squeaky voice, acne, and all. And at the new school they even started calling me by my first name, rather than my middle name that I’d answered to all my life.

Well, those odds were apparently unsurmountable for me, as I failed the seventh-grade also. I told my dad, “I guess I’ll have to take summer school again.” He said, “Oh no, you won’t. You failed it, and you’ll make it up.”

Great. Not only would I have to do a complete rerun of the school year I’d just completed, but the friends I’d made would be moving on to eighth-grade, leaving me with more classes filled with strangers. Guess who made sure he passed that year?

Redemption came for me as I started 10th-grade. There was a deal where I could take extra classes that year, take 11th-grade English during the summer, and then catch back up to my original class as a senior that fall. I jumped on it like a chicken after a grasshopper. I was there for the first class of the day and the last class of the day for those two years to get enough credits to graduate and, believe me, those days were endless.

I’ve said all that to say this—kids, learn all that you can so you can move forward in life. And teachers, don’t be too hard on a kid if he shows back up the next year, having to repeat everything. My precious seventh-grade English teacher, Joy Barnard (that some knew as Joy Tinsley and Joy Mercer) was surprised to see me that second time around. Then, for whatever reason, she began teaching eighth-grade English after that. Lo and behold, guess who got her as a teacher, for the third year in a row? I was the student that wouldn’t go away. After that, she started teaching at the DeSoto Middle School, successfully eliminating the possibility of me showing up for a fourth time.

School is important, teachers really are there to help you, and there’s lots to learn that will help you in the years ahead. So make the most of it and be prepared for anything.

Not that I’ve ever been asked in my adult life to recite the Preamble to the Constitution, diagram a sentence, or dissect an African nightcrawler worm, mind you.

But we shall see ....


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