I’ll freely admit to being a slacker student when I was going to school.
I coasted, I did the bare minimum, and I was much more preoccupied with being the funny guy in the room and hanging out with my friends than I was doing my schoolwork and getting good grades. Perhaps some of you reading this can identify with that in your own academic background.
The problem with my attitude and approach to school at the time was that it finally caught up and bit me in the ass at the end of the year in 1999 when I discovered that I had to repeat the eighth grade.
I was utterly speechless. Shell-shocked, even. From my 13-year old perspective, my life had just hit a brick wall and everything about my future was a big question mark. What did this mean for my social life? What would my friends think? Would they even remain as my friends?
Those next couple of months made for the worst summer of my young life as I was dreading that first day of school. I basically became a hermit for eight weeks and didn’t socialize with anyone because I knew I’d inevitably be asked about my report card, which in turn would draw out a confession that I wasn’t joining everyone else my age in Grade 9 because I hadn’t conquered Grade 8 just yet.
I’ve never told anyone this before, but things got so bad in my head and in my heart that I actually had thoughts of ending it all. I know that may seem on the surface like a small thing to get so worked up about where one would fleetingly consider suicide, but all I can say is that’s how terrified I was at the time. I looked at a bottle of pills in my home and thought about downing a good fistful of them.
You see, that’s one of the horrors of being a teenager; to think that your world is coming to an end because your friends are leaving you behind as they advance in life and you’re left on pause. No one knew I’d been held back until the first day of school when an assembly was held and in the eyes of my friends, I was sitting with “those younger kids” in the 8th grade. But as they say, time heals all wounds, and although there was some awkwardness during those first few weeks, my friends in Grade 9 didn’t leave me. As a matter of fact, I met some guys in my new class who became my best friends in life, guys who I consider brothers to me still today.
It ain’t easy being a kid, and that’s my own personal story of teenage woes that luckily had a much better ending in the long run. However, my story of junior high drama from over twenty years ago is nothing compared to what families are going through right now as we look ahead to arguably the most tumultuous and unprecedented school year in human history under ‘Covid conditions’.
It's been interesting to watch the almost rollercoaster of a ride that parents and kids have been on since this whole pandemic thing blew up back in March. I think back then, there was a bit of an attitude towards Covid that we were going to be out of this thing in just a few months and that the new school year would proceed as normal.
Well, here we are with the first week of school just days away, and the immediate future isn’t exactly going to be normal, but those in charge are doing their absolute best to at least make it a new version of what we perceive ‘normal’ to be.
Since it’s my job, I've been poring through various back to school plans for the local area, and the biggest thing I’ve noticed in larger schools is that they’re going with the ‘Kindergarten mandate’ in which kids will go to school every other day. If your last name starts with A-L, you go on these specific days while kids with M-Z surnames go on those specific days.
When you read up on what else will be in store for staff and students this fall, to say that it's going to be an interesting school year would be an understatement.
My heart is with everyone with kids who attend public school. These are wild and scary times we live in right now where, once again, everything about the future is one big question mark.
I also feel for the teachers, who are being put in a precarious and extremely vulnerable position in which they’re essentially being tasked with a laundry list of roles that they didn’t ask for as little as six months ago. My sister has been a teacher for nearly 30 years and she’s seen it all and done it all, and I hope some of our youngest educators can seek out advice of their senior colleagues when things get too tough. I hope they can all lean on each other and help get everyone through what lays ahead.
I believe there *IS* a light at the end of this tunnel. We just all need to get there together.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.