Back To School: Then vs. Now - by Andra Gillum

The first day of school is August 17th.  Seriously?  I double-checked to make sure there was no mistake.  What happened to the good old days when we started after Labor Day?  Who decided that mid-August was the new September?

I’ve gotten several explanations.  Someone suggested they want the school districts to follow the college schedule.  That makes no sense.  Who wants to be in Florida on Spring Break when the college students are there?  I have no desire to compete in a belly flop competition, or set sail on a fraternity booze cruise.

Our Superintendent said they took a survey, and the majority wanted an early start.  I know the kids and teachers don’t want this, so it must be the seniors.  They want the pool to themselves.  Can’t blame them.  They just want to do a little water aerobics in peace.…without the whistles blowing.  Plus, seniors are the only ones who took time to complete the survey.  The rest of us don’t bother to participate.  We prefer to complain about the results.

The most likely reason I’ve heard blames the early start on the standardized testing in the spring.  Schools need to pack in as much curriculum as they can before the testing period.  Common Core strikes again.

I’m glad school didn’t start this early when I was a kid.  I would have been awfully hot wearing the new Firenza sweater and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans that my mom bought me when we went school shopping.  My Member’s Only jacket would have been a little better, but still warm.  

My kids wear shorts for the first six weeks of school.  Actually, my son wears shorts for the entire year.  He’s a 7th grader now, and I gave up that battle years ago.

So many things about back to school have changed.  Now we buy school supplies through the PTO, and they’re delivered right to class.  That’s actually helpful.  No more running around searching for the box of crayons with the built in sharpener, the wide-ruled spiral notebook, or the newest Trapper Keeper.

What about textbooks?  We used to haul around an armful of them, all carefully covered with a brown grocery bag.  I could never figure out how to cut the bag right, but we managed.   Then, we added our best graffiti.  My older sister always had the Van Halen logo on her books.  I think mine had the MTV logo and probably something about Duran Duran.

Now kids get MacBooks and iPads instead of books.   Nobody is covering those in brown grocery bags.  First of all, grocery bags are plastic now.  Secondly, that paper wouldn’t provide much protection when kids drop their device on the ground.  I’m pretty sure the screen would still shatter.  The “optional” laptop insurance coverage is the new book cover. 

How about the lockers?  They still use those same old combination locks.  Is it left, right left, or right, left right?  Shouldn’t there be something digital by now?  After all, they now sell entire lines of designer locker accessories and supplies.  Who wouldn’t want a locker chandelier?  Can’t we all agree that is a little over the top, especially if dad has to stop by school to run the electricity.

Back to school has certainly changed since I was in school, but kids will always dread the start of early mornings, and especially homework!  If we want joyous faces, we’ll need to head to the local pool to watch the ladies group-walking their laps around the lazy river.

Welcome back to school to all students, teachers and staff.  Ready or not, here it comes!


Andra Gillum is a free-lance writer from Upper Arlington with kids heading back to school at Windermere Elementary and Hastings Middle School.  Send your comments and feedback to  

Andra is also the author of the children’s books “Doggy Drama” and “Puppy Drama” (coming soon).  Learn more at or at