I love this time of year. It’s invigorating and puts a spring in your step as the nippy breezes chill your face and hands.
This is my fifth year of retirement, and fall always reminds me of that. I miss being with my colleagues and the students. I do not miss getting up bright and early and heading off to school. Mornings are no longer rushed and I can take my time eating breakfast. I can watch the “Today” show in my pajamas and have a second cup of coffee. These were the little things about retirement that I most looked forward to.
My grandchildren are now in middle school and high school. One is in Michigan and two are in Texas. Through them I still feel connected to the school system by hearing about their school experiences.
When school first started, my Texas granddaughter and her parents were trying to adjust to the dress code that did not allow skinny jeans or leggings. This was a big deal since that is what most of the stores carried in their back-to-school clothing. Given the rural setting of the school district, I suggested all the girls wear overalls with T-shirts. Of course, that’s not going to happen.
To celebrate the start of summer vacation, my Texas granddaughter routinely dyes the tips of her hair with Jello. This usually washes out by the start of the school year, but not so this year. Something about the Fruit Punch flavor held on through three months of washing. Another dress code at her school is no unnatural hair color. She has thick, curly red hair and the red Jello she used for her hair was a few shades darker. As school approached, she went to the beauty shop where almost all signs of the dye were removed. Maybe next year she’ll find another way to celebrate or choose a different flavor of Jello.
The next challenge she faced when marching band started was that all her hair had to be up and under her band hat. Now she has the equivalent of three full heads of hair and it goes to the middle of her back (her goal is waist length). Her mom sent me a picture of her handy-work braiding and coiling all of this hair on the top of her head. Another challenge met.
My Michigan granddaughter keeps me informed of some of the goings on at her high school. After a recent staff meeting, the teachers informed the students that their Chromebooks can only be used for educational purposes during the school day. No Facebook, YouTube, Instagram. Got it! This was the concern years ago when the move to using the Chromebooks were first discussed as educational tools. How this is going to be monitored, I don’t know — but kids will be kids, so I’m sure this will still be going on under the radar.
Another issue at her school is students using their cellphones to video skirmishes that take place during the day. The administration has made it clear that students are not to use their cellphones to record these occurrences during the school day. That being said, she showed me the video of a recent scuffle at her school that was posted on the internet. Again, kids will be kids.
Just last week on the “Today” show, I saw an interview with five high school-age boys regarding the impact social media has on dating. They pointed out how public everything about their lives is, given the use of social media. From dating to breaking up, it all seems to be a very public experience.
They mentioned the use of an app for location mapping that shows where everyone is and who they are hanging out with. One talked about using the social media to follow ex-girlfriends. Another teen explained how teens have fake accounts, back-up accounts, private accounts and private, private accounts! There is a thing called “Finsta Instagram” that combines fake and Instagram for more privacy, if I understand this correctly.
All these things I’ve mentioned about my grandchildren’s experiences at school are just a snapshot of their everyday life. I remember having dress codes all through my school years from kindergarten through college on into the workplace. Dress codes are here to stay and help children learn early on that in different settings there are different parameters of what is acceptable and what is not.
Living in the age of technology is something my grandchildren have grown up with. It, too, has its own parameters of what is and is not acceptable use, given the setting it is being used in. This may be a bigger challenge for students today than a dress code.
Technology is a powerful and useful educational tool. Ongoing monitoring of it may be a necessary burden that school districts must manage.
As parents and grandparents, we can put effort into keeping lines of communication open with our children and grandchildren. The world they live in at school is much different then what it was like for us. They need us to try to understand what this is like for them by not diminishing their worries and anxiety. Sometimes that means just being quiet long enough to hear what they are saying.
— By Janice R. Beuschel, Tribune community columnist