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Teachers and students in the same boat Richard Pena | Fri, Aug 20 2010 03:25 PM

In a few short days children from all over the area will be back in school.

Summer vacation will have passed and the routine of eight in the morning to three in the afternoon will revert to what it was a couple of months ago.

Oh, I know that many schools - those on year-round schedules - have already been in class for some time. Old -fashioned me, however, has to stick to the traditional, to the time when summer vacation was really a summer vacation and the only thing the kid had to fear was the day after Labor Day.

I really believe that the school kid who loves his summer sabbatical was cheated this year.

I don't know about the younger set but I have treated each day of the so-called summer season as sweater weather.

Even the weather prognosticators, who have all the instruments and information on hand, will tell us that we have had one of the coldest Julys and Augusts in some time. It is highly discouraging to awaken early in the morning, on what should be a bright, sunny day, only to see a thick layer of what they call overcast, so dense and copious that we cannot even see Mount Miguel.

To gripe or whine about it will only bring on the snide asides, "Would you rather have the Santa Anas?" And, perhaps, they are right.

We have had some wicked summers. I recall one particular September, in my teaching days, returning to the classroom when the temperature was nearing three digits. They had me in a bungalow, one of those war time buildings that had about as much shelter as a thatch hut.

This was the first week of school and the pupils, because of some unwritten tradition, came to school in brand new finery.

The boys were encased in stiff jeans, those that somewhat resembled armor and mail, and the girls were in layer upon layer of crinoline that looked nice on the model in the store the week before but was highly out of place in the classroom. Fortunately the newness quickly wore off and the students settled in, donning those outfits that stood for comfort over vogue.

In retrospect we might be better off with the gloom and chill as opposed to the Santa Anas. The latter always seem to have some sinister foreboding as if something strange is about to occur. I have mentioned before a line from a Raymond Chandler classic where, during a Santa Ana, the harried housewife is contemplating the neck of her sleeping husband, while she fingered the sharp edges of a butcher knife.

Of course, Chandler would only insert these instances in his novels to make us think. I don't think any of his lady characters ever used the butcher knife for anything other than kitchen tasks.

In the traditional school schedule, when school started in early September after that brief hiatus known as summer vacation, the first day was always something special. Thirty or so students had a new teacher. And the teacher had 30 new kids.

This was the time to size up each other. Was this teacher going to be a tough one? Or, perhaps, a pushover? Were these kids going to be easy to get along with or am I going to have problems? Such thoughts circled in the minds of nearly everyone in the classroom, thoughts that proved to be inconsequential because in a very short period, the routine was set, the groove was established, and the entire classroom functioned as well as the proverbial, well-oiled machine.

To be on the safe side I sort of got away from the personal approach to this subject and asked some of my former colleagues how they felt as they approached the first day of school.

Donna Ciolli was a 33-year veteran of kindergarten in Chula Vista schools, most of it at Sunnyside Elementary.

She told me that even in the latter years of her career she would awaken at two in the morning in the weeks before the start of school. She would once more go through her lesson plans and other preparations in her mind, as excited with anticipation as she was when she was a rookie.

Another long-time Chula Vista teacher, Marlene Giles, almost echoed Ciolli's statement saying that she anticipated the school year with as much excitement as she did the summer vacation. In the dedicated teacher this is the way it should be.

So my advice to the incoming student is to anticipate a good year. You are going to get a dedicated teacher, who will give his or her all.

And 10 months from now you will be all the wiser for it. On top of that, the summer of 2010 wasn't so hot anyway.

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