Ready or not, here it comes

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

It is the question that everyone is asking: “are you ready to go back to school?”

My daughter plugs her ears with her fingers and pretends not to hear whenever someone mentions the words “back to school.” It seems like the summer went by so fast. A new season is here signaled by back to school shopping, hilarious comics like those we have seen in the local newspaper, children’s reluctancy to early wake-ups, hours of homework, earlier bedtimes because it is a school night, before and after school care, anxious waiting for teacher assignments, commuters competing with school buses on the roadways and children outside waiting at the bus stops.

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If we are honest, most of us are like my daughter. We do not look forward to the back-to-school season. It signals transition from a laid-back summer, “go with the flow” to a mandatory “get with the program” scheduling system. Everyone is required to submit to its arrival whether you want to or not. It seems that back-to-school season brings the entire country to a military attention posture: chin up, chest out, shoulders back, eyes front and stomach in. Get ready to salute the flag; school is back in session.

I do not look forward to the transition, but I love the result of returning to a school routine. I love the structure. I love how students can learn more and see their progress. I love the chance to brag on their progress and encourage them to keep up the good work. Most of all, I love the new people that are added to my circle every new school term.

I remember when my daughter began Early Start at Oakland Elementary School. I have a vivid memory of that orientation for her class. I discovered the need for school community at Oakland and the value of school community. I valued it. Back then, parents were assigned days to have snacks for the entire class and sign up for different supplies for the classroom and when to volunteer in the classroom or in the school office. Parents did these things.

It was not that long ago that my daughter began her scholastic career in Early Start. Eight years later, I still receive a big hug and smile every time I see her teachers, Karen Branson and Lisa Dice, at Oakland Elementary School. They were the beginning of building my Suffolk community with me in the middle of it. A community started with a child being assigned to a classroom.

Today, as I reflect on that first year as a parent in the Suffolk Public School system, I became a bit jealous of teachers and administrators. They grow their community by leaps and bounds each year. Each year, they meet more new people and must learn their names and faces. Each year, they add children and people to mentor that they impart knowledge. When teachers and administrators commit to a new school year, they are growing and developing our community, integrating us into a whole unit and offering opportunities for parents and teachers to build new relationships.

My baby boy and last child starts Early Start next Tuesday. I now have triple opportunities to grow my community. I realize multiple children in school means I will be busier than ever, but I am never too busy for community. I enjoy meeting new people and building relationships.

This school year, whether your children are homeschooled, in private school or public school, I challenge you and your children to think of new opportunities to expand your circle.

  • Attend PTA, School Board meetings and school activities if your schedule allows.
  • Order business cards and plan to give them to new acquaintances when you meet.
  • Introduce yourself to a parent of a child that your child does not know well.
  • Ask the teachers and administrators about ways that you can serve the school (even if you only have a small window of availability).
  • Connect with neighbors (you never know when you may need a neighbor).

I have said it before and it bears repeating — we need community more than we think. If we can be optimistic about anything during the back-to-school season, it is that school is learning and growing in community. Since school is back in session, that means growing is also.


QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.