For our town, Fall means traffic gets worse and checkout lines get longer here in State College, PA. Why? Well, 45,000 students and 15,000 faculty will be returning to Penn State this week, doubling the population of the city. The local Wal-Mart has filled their entire Garden, Clearance and Seasonal sections with cheap furniture and shower caddies to infinity and beyond.
Secondarily, it means we had to attend a 5-hour Middle School orientation. Kristi and Genevieve attended the first two hours Monday; all three of us went Wednesday night. This is Genevieve's first year in middle school, so I endured the hot rooms,* throngs of sweaty kids, germ-infested tiny chairs and hallways.
Here's what I have learned this week:
1. "Locker Swag" is a thing, and it has its own section at Target. The first job was to figure out not only the lock combination, but the chandeliers, wall paper, and carpet.
2. School is all computers & internet now. Compared to 30-odd years ago when I was in class, the public school system is fairly modern these days. State College is known as one of the best districts in the state, which helps. They do a lot of cross-pollination (Math is used in Art and Art in Science, etc., something that wasn't considered when I was a kid). All the teachers and students are issued laptops and use Google Docs for assignments (no more "I forgot my homework" excuses). G's homeroom teacher asked us to text her cellphone if we need her, then gave us a magnet business card with her email address and website.
Of course, with great technology though, comes great... technical problems. The Vice Principal's introductory Skype-like video resulted in a Windows Media Player mid-way through; the video of last year's choir was sullied by a "Your Mac has Updates to Install" icon in the upper right. Honestly, I was expecting digital lockers.
3. Middle School is not uncomfortable as it used to be. This school actually does have central air conditioning (albeit unable to combat hundreds of people), which is a miracle. G's Elementary School did not, and I remember many days falling asleep in a brutally hot and humid classroom... it's 2014, kids shouldn't have that problem anymore. I also remember being extremely thirsty, and trips to the water fountain were not allowed in-between breaks. At this school, they were careful to point out that kids are free to bring a water bottle to class. Glorious.
4. Halloween is gone. The most interesting thing I learned is that Halloween is no longer a holiday (at least in this school district) -- they were very explicit about that... there is to be no dressing up. I'm guessing this is a result of the overly-politically-correct U.S. public school system. However, they are encouraged to dress up as their favorite President for President's Day.
5. I'd like to punch whoever made the "6-day" rotation. This is a schedule of classes for kids, repeating every 6 days. Which means every day the kids are doing something different on every day. If this were implemented in the workplace, heads would roll. Talk about confusing!
After the grueling three hours, there was a reward: Dairy Queen for all of us.
Kristi also helped her cousin move into a dorm at Penn State. Kristi and I mused that kids are lucky these days, being able to document school life like this. When we were kids, if you brought a camera to school, you were a weirdo (although worth noting: that did not stop me a couple times). Now, kids upload a constant stream of videos and photos from these events to document their entire iives. I think if I were starting college now, I'd wear a Narrative Clip camera: