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Back to School much different today

By Kay S. Pedrotti Wait, guys, it isn’t the day after Labor Day! What do you mean, everybody went back to school on Aug. 6? Are you crazy? No, the school system is not crazy, nor are its administrators and teachers. I honestly can’t say that about the federal and state regulations, requirements, guidelines, mandates and so-called improvement programs that have become so burdensome for people who just want to educate kids. Our school year apparently runs so long because there are so many paperwork duties for teachers and principals that every school system would go broke paying overtime if it weren’t for the students-off days. Or maybe the number of days of required attendance has changed since the dark ages of the 1950s and ‘˜60s when I was being educated in Albany. Anyhow, the day after Labor Day was always the first day of school for us — a leftover from farmcommunity days when children had to help harvest crops. The end of school fell at the very end of May or the very first of June, but we did indeed have ‘all summer’ off. My mother the firstgrade teacher had a pre- and postplanning week; I sometimes helped her set up. All year, she had many extra duties then which today are done by others — making sure the classroom was ready for floorcleaning on a certain day, dusting, checking on bathrooms. This child, you understand, was never typical. I remember that in elementary years, we students washed our own desks at the end of school. In first grade I knotted a handkerchief around my head (my mother always made me carry one) when we started that chore. Here’s a gist of the conversation that ensued: Mrs Saylor: Kay Smith, what in the world are you doing? Kay: Well, I thought if I was going to be a maid, I might as well look like one. It wasn’t malicious, nor smartaleck; I really thought that headgear would be okay. It was the best use I’d had of that tacky flowered handkerchief. Mrs. Saylor was not amused. I cringe to realize now that the incident was a precursor of things to come. I was never in big trouble — just had a lot of little quirks that kept my teachers guessing and my parents punishing me at home. The point of this column is not that kids should be allowed to get away with anything but that someone somewhere needs to take a good hard look at why things are the way they are in today’s schools. Did some ivory-tower people decide that because kids in other countries were excelling in math and science our kids should learn geometry before mastering the multiplication tables? It’s my belief that our school system is in the clutches of bureaucrats (above county level) who have created a state of analysis paralysis. We are awash in alphabet-soup programs and our children have yet to go back to basics. That’s too bad; I’ve made a good living from writing for more than 40 years because my foundations were great — between Labor Day and June 1. Kay Pedrotti is a writer and reporter for The Herald Gazette and the Pike County Journal Report It’s my belief that our school system is in the clutches of bureaucrats (above county level) who have created a state of analysis paralysis.

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