When we decided on the topic for the September issue of our Italy Blogging Roundtable, I was absolutely enthusiastic because the time of the year when it’s time to go “back to school” has always been a landmark in my life.
It is one of those bittersweet moments when you have both reasons to be sad and reasons to be happy. The downside of going back to school was that… you had to go back to school! In a small village like mine, it means essentially having to get up early and get on a school bus around 7am from when you are 11 to the end of highschool… 8 years of long, early morning bus rides… Very, very tiring… I still hate traveling by bus to this very day! And we were the lucky ones, because at least we could go to school in our village until the end of elementary school (5th grade). The kids living in the countryside or in the neighbouring villages had to get such an early start from day one of pre-school when they were only 3!
The positive side of going back to school was also that you would go back to school! That meant a lot of things for me (and in a way still does).
First of all, it meant that the summer was over, which was bad in a way because some of my friends who were in the village for the holidays were going back to their home cities, and that was it for the year: in some cases we would see each other only during the Christmas holidays or the following summer even.
It was also great though, because it was and it still is the time when life goes back to normal: shops would reopen, your favourite TV shows would start again, if you had extra-curricular activities besides school (language courses, sports, etc), they would also start again, etc. After 3 months when your routine was messed up, I have always enjoyed going back to “normal”.
Second, going back to school was preceded by that great moment when your mum would take you shopping for new clothes, a new school bag, books and stationery! That was the time I loved the most!!! I remember my mum used to take me to a large store in Grosseto called “Grandi Magazzini“. They would have an entire section dedicated to notebooks, pencil cases, bags, and all sort of stationery! I have always been a stationery freak! I can still smell the mix of paper and plastic! Oh! And it was time to buy a journal!!! That is the most important object for an Italian student! You do use it for your class schedule and as a memo for homework, but it’s also a bit of a diary, where you write down your thoughts, maybe your secrets, collect important things like cards or photos, and have your friends write in it! I still have all my school journals! Such great (and embarrassing) memories! Anyway, the choice of journal was crucial.
I loved my new course books too! Here everybody has to buy their own textbooks. We don’t have lockers, so you need your journal so that you know what lessons you have everyday, which books to bring, and which homework to do. The smell of new books is still one of my favourite! The glossy paper, the colourful covers! I never wanted used books, and my parents were always kind enough to spend all that money on me!
Third, on your first day of school you would see your new classroom. In Italian schools, we don’t change classroom according to the subject. The curriculum is the same for everybody and different teachers alternate in the classroom. So that space is yours for the year. You found it bare and plain, and you had one year to fill it up with your own stuff! Of course seeing your classroom for the first time it also meant choosing your new seat for the year! Getting to school early on your first day was vital or you could be stuck in one of the front rows!!! It also meant to get to pick your desk-mate! And the relationship with your desk-mate is a serious matter: it’s a life long relationship!
Fourth, after the 5th grade, going back to school also meant seeing some of your favorite school friends after the holidays! Up to the end of the elementary school, since I was living and studying in a small village, the fact of seeing my classmates again was not a source of great excitement, because I would have seen them everyday anyway. But when I started going to school in a different village first and city later, there were plenty of people who I didn’t get to see during the holidays, some of whom I really missed (as the September telephone bill would show… God bless the internet these days…).
Fifth, going back to school also coincided with my mum going back to work (she was a pre-school teacher for 40 years until she retired last year), which, when I was a young kid, was sad, and, when I was a teenager, was great!
Sixth, the day school started… catechism would also start. I have to say that I have very fond memories of my days in catechism too: it was yet another opportunity to socialize!
As an adult working in education myself, I still have mixed feelings about the beginning of the school year! I certainly appreciate the summer holidays now more than I used to when I was a kid! I work at the University, so with the beginning of September come the exams and the correcting, and the meetings, and the deadlines. But with it also comes meeting my colleagues again, going back to a stimulating environment, and meeting new students and new challenges and teaching new courses. I love all of that.
This year, I will miss the excitement, I am afraid. For the first time in many years, I won’t be going back to school, well… not physically… although I have already done my fare share of grading papers and there is more waiting for me in the next few weeks… I am on maternity leave, because I am (very) pregnant with our first (and probably only!) child. If everything goes as it should, our baby should arrive at the beginning of December and I won’t be able to go back to work until early March. I guess there are reasons for excitement too… although at the moment I spend more time freaking out than rejoicing! But I am kind of looking forward to the moment when I will hopefully be able to live the whole going back to school excitement as a mother. Or maybe not… let’s see what kind of kid he is… he might not be a “swot” like me!
Italy Blogging Roundtable
This is the fourth post in a monthly series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Here you can find the posts of the other bloggers who participate in the roundtable. Our topic this month was “Back to school“: