This past week many Facebook friends posted pictures of their children and grandchildren on the first day of school. Some even posted old black and white Kodak prints of their own first day of school long years ago. All very endearing and sweet,
When I was a kid I seem to remember there was a happy anticipation at the start of each school year, like something new and good was about to happen. Students seemed to understand , sometimes grudgingly so, the summer season was over, and it was time again to study and learn. One thing that always seemed to be the same from grade to grade was sometime during the first two weeks of school the teacher would assign the class to write about their summer vacation .
While I don't recall each essay I wrote, two come to mind. The first one was about visiting my Grandpa Cecil Cooney at the Veteran's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. He was very ill and no longer recognized many people he once knew, but when I walked into the room he recognized me, and smiled. I adored my Grandfather and was so glad to see him. I took his hand and held it against my cheek. Grandpa was my hero, we had shared so many happy times together. He always called me his 'Little brown-eyed sweetheart' . When Grandma asked if I wanted to help feed him , I quickly nodded yes , so grateful I could do something for Grandpa after all he had done for me.
The other essay I remember about summer vacation was when I was in 8th grade . Sister Mary Agnesine instructed the class to write a descriptive story about something we did over the summer. I wrote of my first experience riding a Honda 50 . After Jim, a dear family friend gave me instruction on how to start the motorcycle and shift gears, I did just the opposite of what he said, and started in high gear. Then, faster than a locomotive, I soared over the side of the bluff , dropping 30 feet into a dark murky lake, like a dive bomber crashing into the sea. Honda and all. After hitting the water I floated to the top, but the bike sank straight to the bottom. I wasn't injured, just stunned and scared. It took several dives before Jim eventually was able to pull the Honda from the water, but sadly, it never ran the same again. Sister wrote a note on the top of my paper that mys essay was well written, but I didn't follow instructions as it was to be a 'true' story. I had to take some extra time after class to explain it was a true story.
I don't think educators have changed much over the years - they still assign essays about summer vacations. Last week I pulled a notebook from a chest downstairs to re-read stories my son Gavin wrote about his summer vacations , our family trip to Disney World when he and his dad stood for an hour in the Florida heat to go down the slide at the water park, and another about he and I spending the day at Northtown Mall in Spokane.
In my opinion , that kind of writing exercise is beneficial to students of all ages, helping them to develop sentence structure, description, and dialogue, and to tell a story in their own words, and style. The same could be said of writers, too. No matter how long we've been writing, it might be worth our while to think back on some of those old school day writing assignments , and put them into practice again. Summer is passed, the new school year has begun, why not write about one experience you had during the summer. Perhaps a trip abroad, kayaking on the lake, a family reunion, or barbecue in the backyard. Decide on one special summer moment, and see where it leads you !