It’s almost that time

By RENE’ DAY / Community Columnist

Have you heard them yet? They start faintly about this time of year and gain volume, momentum and frequency as the days pass. In case you are puzzled, what you hear are the mournful cries of teachers first discovering the “back to school” displays in the stores! Yes, those cheerful, colorful displays appear around July 4th each year to the dismay of summering students and teachers. Their cries of anguish can be some of the saddest sounds in the world.

Actually, I say all of the above with a good bit of tongue in my cheek. For, regardless of what many outside of education think, the three reasons teachers teach are NOT June, July and August. As a former educator, that always made my eyes roll and my temper flare a bit. To be sure, in a county where education is valued as it is in ours, school does not end in May and begin in August. More and more the pursuit of excellence is year-long as professionals make the most of extended learning in the form of continuing education classes, workshops and conferences.

By the way – do you know that the reason schools originally finished in late spring and began again after Labor Day had nothing to do with learning – and everything to do with farming? Yes, in communities where agriculture fueled the economy and filled the stomachs of most, every hand was needed when harvest time came. Each child in school meant two less hands for the field. So, school calendars were arranged to free students to help at home when they were most needed. Isn’t it interesting that so many of the traditions we maintain today began because of cultural necessities? In fact, the reason we use bells to begin and end school classes can be directly traced to the industrialization of the country. As America moved from agriculture to manufacturing, future workers had to understand the importance of the factory workday. To help ensure this happened, schools began using bells – much like the factory horns – to signal the start of the school day, breaks between classes and the time to go home.

Today’s world is much different and education has changed to meet the needs of our global society. And, now, Shelby County is fortunate to be home to three top school districts and a myriad of private school options. Our schools are the major reasons the county remains one of the fastest-growing places in the state. Staying at the top requires dedication and hard work from administrators, teachers, staff and the community workers who support education. Summer isn’t just a chance to catch a breath, but it is also an opportunity to improve for the following year.

So – if you happen to hear any strange noises in the next few weeks, it won’t be teachers’ distressed cries. It will be the sound of good education getting better.