Backpacks and Nifty Notebooks

At church this past Sunday the minister called all children and their pack backs and teachers armed with their grade books to the front and said prayers for a successful school year. It was a nice moment that softened the realization that summer’s end is here. It’s interesting to look at the difference in school supplies that kids need these days.

One kindergarten mom posted on Facebook the following: “[I] just bought 2 bottles of hand sanitizer, 2 rolls of paper towels, 6 boxes of Kleenex, 2 containers of Clorox wipes, 1 white t-shirt size adult S, 5 boxes of baby wipes, and every size of Ziploc baggie.”

Whew! What a sight to witness as little ones walk into their first day of school with a large cardboard box filled with supplies that promote good health. Glaringly absent were any items that might be used in subjects. Hey, the kids might not learn a single thing, but they’ll be able to fight off every germ that dares cross the classroom’s threshold.

Older students want a new pack back every year, even though last year’s model is still in one piece and sturdy enough for the abuse handed out by young people. The new models need enough room in the main compartment to haul an apartment of furniture. That’s because kids tote all sorts of “necessaries” for school, yes, things like water bottles, hand-held games, a bag filled with make-up, and lunch. Oh, books need to have a place since students never uses lockers to store them. Those young folks would rather risk permanent back injuries than to make a stop to exchange textbooks.

Several smaller compartments should be available on the outside areas of the pack. There kids stow electronic equipment. Hey, it’s a well-known fact that no student can survive without a cell phone. No one knows when an important phone call might come in, one that confirms a weekend date or a work schedule. And texting is a “must-do activity” for the younger generation. In addition, pockets to house iPods, electronic games, and chargers for them are needed.

How things have changed.

In a simpler time, kids had different wants for school. A Nifty Notebook served most needs. Some whose families were better off got Trapper Keepers, the envy of all other kids. A big pack of Blue Horse notebook paper, along with several new pencils, the big fat ones for first graders, and a couple of Bic pens rounded out supplies. A Pink Pearl eraser was considered an extra for which students were grateful.

Brown bags or metal boxes held lunches of peanut butter and jelly or bologna and Velveeta sandwiches. Some kids ate school lunches, and others begged for money for special meals during Thanksgiving and Christmas times. Students shared lockers and kept books and other school items in them, and somehow they managed to drop by them between classes without arriving tardy to classes.

School has changed plenty. Before, kids were excited to begin a new year. The summer kept them from seeing friends on a daily basis, and activities and transportation were limited. A sense of returning to “normal” accompanied the first days of classes. New supplies were few in number for most everyone, just like new clothes consisted only of a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, and a pair of shoes.

Today, kids get all sorts of supplies, and too many are careless with them. At the end of each year, no fewer than twenty backpacks will be abandoned in lockers or classrooms. Students use technical gadgetry to aid their learning, a far cry from the days of using paper and pencil only.
Still, school returns just like the seasons. The roads are jammed with buses and mini-vans. Teachers await student arrivals with weeks of lesson plans. The new will wear off and excitement will wane the same as daylight hours of fall days. Classrooms that brought so much excitement just a few weeks earlier will offer torturous homework assignments. Students will long for the days of summer where no homework or bedtimes cramped their styles. Bathing suits and shorts will replace backpacks and Nifty Notebooks.

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