Valley Views: Back to school if not quite back to normal | August 27, 2021 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - August 27, 2021

Valley Views: Back to school if not quite back to normal

by By Dolores Fox Ciardelli

New clothes. New backpacks. New lunch boxes. Notebooks and markers. The signs had been there for days. Then it arrived: The new school year began.

It was not back to school for me obviously. Not even for my children. Now it's my grandchildren experiencing the thrill of the new school year and all it entails.

But I heard about the new shoes and the haircuts, and on the big day was texted the photo of the fourth-grader and the kindergartner standing by their front door holding their cheery signs with the grade and the date -- a wonderful tradition I wish I'd thought to observe with my own children.

The fourth-grader has graduated to a backpack so big it has wheels. What in the world is in there, and why did I manage with a few books and a sack lunch when I was her age?

She also has a new multi-colored "hydro flask." Not to be confused with a water bottle. Although I am confused. I guess the difference may be in the price.

I am trying to recall what I drank when I was in school. For lunch I remember a bologna sandwich on white bread with generous mayo and iceberg lettuce (cheese on Fridays) and an apple in a brown paper bag. My beverage must have been water from the school drinking fountain, which apparently was enough to keep me hydrated.

This year going back to school was more fraught than usual because everyone is returning with fingers crossed that all goes well in the face of the ongoing pandemic. My grandchildren wear masks in the classrooms but the distancing isn't as rigid as it was in the spring, and they don't have to wear masks outside. Also they no longer have their temperatures taken upon arrival.

My granddaughter, 9, observed after her first day: "The classroom doesn't stink like sanitizer this year like it did last year." Ah, childhood memories.

This is a special year for my daughter, too, because she is returning to teaching after a few years off to launch her kids. She was excited during the two weeks of training to be back working in her field again, although now juggling child care had its challenges. But she hasn't had to call in the Marines yet -- meaning me -- so it must be under control.

Through my years with newspapers I have written back-to-school stories and interviewed teachers at the beginning of the school year. I also watch my friends who are retired teachers. At this time of year they wistfully remember the excitement they experienced as summer vacation drew to a close. Do they wish they hadn't retired? No, it was time, is always the response.

"I miss it for a little bit, that sense of anticipation," said my friend Pat, who taught second grade for 10 years. "It's always such an exciting time of year as a teacher. I've been out for six or seven years and I'm still aware it's that time of year."

She said a friend with two young boys told her they were really, really nervous about the new school year.

"I said, tell them that as a teacher I was nervous, too," Pat said.

This year students have more to be nervous about of course. To think I only had to worry about my seat assignment, making friends and whether the teacher would like me, not contracting a deadly disease that I could then pass on to family members and friends.

In Pleasanton, all the schools are open and full-time, although some families have chosen to continue remote learning. Superintendent David Haglund has been making the rounds of the campuses and looking forward to a successful year.

"Our key focus in the coming weeks will be to ensure a restorative restart for staff and students," he wrote the parents.

What a challenging time to be a leader -- or a student or a parent. But, while somewhat daunting this time, the annual back-to-school ritual gives a normalcy to our lives that we can cherish. Now let's crack open those books! Those computers?

Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," appears on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.


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