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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Musings on the start of a school year

Telegraph Editorial

Although we put on the party hats and break out the noisemakers on Dec. 31 to mark the passing of a calendar year and ring in the arrival of a new one, some regard the Labor Day weekend as the arrival of the real new year – at least the psychological one.

There’s no confetti, pointy hats or catchy tunes to rival “Auld Lang Syne,” but the end of the summer vacation season, a hint of cool in the air and the return of children to school send strong signals that the party’s over and it’s time to get back to business. ...

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Although we put on the party hats and break out the noisemakers on Dec. 31 to mark the passing of a calendar year and ring in the arrival of a new one, some regard the Labor Day weekend as the arrival of the real new year – at least the psychological one.

There’s no confetti, pointy hats or catchy tunes to rival “Auld Lang Syne,” but the end of the summer vacation season, a hint of cool in the air and the return of children to school send strong signals that the party’s over and it’s time to get back to business.

If you needed a visual reminder, cue the big yellow buses.

A few things that occurred to us as we wondered where the summer went and considered the idea that snow may be only a few months away:

n For thousands of students, their business is learning. The good news is, most students are walking around with the sum of all human knowledge literally at their fingertips in the form of phones that can upload, download and send information around the world in seconds. Compared to the ways their grandparents were forced to acquire knowledge – by going to an actual library, looking through a card catalog and reading an honest-to-goodness book – kids today sure do have it easy.

n Of course, no sooner do we have that thought than we are set upon by the notion that it’s a lot harder to be a kid in school today. We don’t envy them the distractions that come from the nonstop barrage of text messages, tweets and other bombardments. How do they ever get any work done?

n And we don’t imagine those things make it all that easy to be a teacher these days, either, competing as they are for their students’ attention against the backdrop of that nonstop stream of incoming information. Maybe that’s what it would have been like had our great-grandparents walked around with stock tickers in their pockets back in the day.

n We can’t say for sure, but we’d guess that students who are required to turn in their assignments via email or Google Docs might have a harder time claiming that their dog ate their homework.

n We’re rooting for the students in the alternative-education high school now known as The Nashua Program at Brentwood, and for their teachers, too. The program shut down abruptly last spring because of money, and Nashua school administrators scrambled to pull it together to serve an intensive-needs population that already faces some long odds. The school opened with the rest of the district last Tuesday.

n All kids are special, but there is nothing to rival the scene of a child heading off for that first day of kindergarten. It’s a reminder that we all start out in that same place – freshly scrubbed, wearing new school clothes and sporting a lunchbag filled with snacks, a juice box and an endless supply of hope, promise and excitement. We can’t help but think that the world would be a better place if we could bottle even a little of the great expectations reflected in the faces of parents as they send their little boys and girls off to school for the first time.

So, Happy New Year, and here’s hoping every child finds at least one teacher they connect with, one classmate they can call a friend, and that every teacher touches the future of every child who is fortunate enough to come into their orbit, no matter how briefly.