Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Smell of Fresh Crayons

Ah, the smell of crayons! Walk into any grocery or department store this time of year and you will be hit with the smell of fresh crayons wafting from somewhere midst a mountain back-to-school supplies. I loved shopping for new school supplies as a child.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I loved shopping for new school supplies as an adult as well. The smell of fresh crayons is like the sound of a trumpet to a teacher –the unofficial announcement that summer is over and a new year with a new group of children is about to begin.
Actually, some schools have already started.

I remember a time though, when the new school year started the day after Labor Day and ended the week after Memorial Day. There was a reason for that. Schools followed an agrarian calendar. We were a farming nation back then. Children were needed on farms to help plant and harvest. As a result, most schools don’t have air conditioning and were not built with cross ventilation in mind. They were built to keep our children warm and safe during the cold winter months. I digress.

I no longer teach children in a formal setting, yet the smell of crayons and the plethora of spiral bound notebooks call out to me in a new way. They remind me of being asked to produce a first day of school essay titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

The task is so familiar that children everywhere have come to expect it. Teachers use the composition as a baseline to assess student writing, punctuation, composition, vocabulary, and so forth. Students use it to boast of trips to Disney World or the beach. Some take advantage of the writing requirement to engage in creative writing, drafting a paragraph describing what they wish they had done. A few feel comfortable simply writing they played with their friends or siblings.

I suspect very few report their chores on the farm anymore. No, the essays are more about going places and being entertained.

Regardless of the content, teachers use the writing for assessment. But I wonder what would happen if the assignment changed. What if the question was something like one of these?

What I Did to Make a Difference in the Lives of Others During My Summer Vacation

What I Hope Others Will Remember I Did for Them During My Summer Vacation

Ways I Challenged Myself Over My Summer Vacation

Three New Things I Learned During My Summer Vacation

 I can’t help but wonder if children expected this sort of assignment on that first day of school, how their lives might be changed in the course of one summer. Or how they might positively impact the lives of those around them. I wonder what plans they might make for the following year.

What would your essay look like? How did you use the longer days of summer to bless those around you?
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  1. You had me at the smell of fresh crayons. Yesterday I stopped in at Target and found my self in the back to school supplies aisles as if I planned to go back to school myself. I can't help it, but it's a yearly thing for me still. Also I'm a bit bummed that we never were asked to write a story about what we did over summer vacation when I was in school. That seems like such a fun way to start the year. And I also like your suggestions of other questions for the students to write about. Great post.

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! I'm glad to have found a soulmate here! I am so happy you enjoyed the post.


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