My daughter recently started back at her day school. She goes two days a week and loves it. While I miss having her at home, I’m glad she enjoys being around the other kids, learning, and playing with them. Each day, when I drive her to school, I ask her if she’s excited for the day. Sometimes she says yes, but sometimes she says no. Either way, I know she’s in good hands and is being challenged in ways I, alone can’t provide.

I’ve always loved the back to school season. The new backpacks, fresh paper, pens. Lunch kits, nap mats, pencils, and new shoes. The start of something new. A reminder that while breaks are fun, life takes work. We must challenge ourselves, even into adulthood.

I think I’ve always enjoyed this time of year because it leads to fall, my favorite season. The comfort of the earlier evenings lulls me. The (hopefully) cooler air, which leads to Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s all familiar and yet every year I look forward to it. It’s something to lean on to when life is unpredictable.

As a child, while I loved my summers, I enjoyed going to school. It was a place where I could have fun, sometimes cause a little trouble (what kid doesn’t), and always felt safe. When I look back, the learning portion of school floats around in the background, yet I realize just how much my education shaped my future.

I remember certain teachers who made an impression. They were the ones who were creative in their approaches, always trying to find inventive ways to get students to learn. I remember my first-grade teacher trying to help our class learn the difference between the words whole and hole, using donut holes that we got to try when we chose the right word. Teachers make an imprint. 

My experience was also a bit different in elementary because my mom was my music teacher. We got popcorn after school and even got to visit the teacher’s lounge where we’d enjoy buying a Mr. Pibb. I even remember roller blading through the halls, on the extra smooth floor, while my mom prepared for the coming school year.

Before my daughter was born, I briefly worked as a teacher’s aide at Victoria Walker elementary. Though I realized the job wasn’t for me, I still look back on it fondly. Reading, and writing, is absolutely crucial in not only learning about life, but also in becoming better communicators, truth I didn’t understand until college.

School wasn’t always easy for me. I struggled with math, especially Algebra. But overall, I learned a lot. About reading, writing, math, but also lessons on life and the need for friends. I hope this year is successful and safe and challenging in our schools. I hope our kids not only learn how to write a sentence and solve a math equation, but also how to be kind and make a difference in the world.

Justa Lanie Garrett is a lifelong resident of Baytown.

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