Not all summers are created equal

by Dr. Jinger Gustafson

My brother and I looked at the end of the school year very differently. He was so excited for summer vacation and time away from school and I was saddened by the fact that it was summer vacation and I would not be in school.

Specifically, I remember the summer before sixth grade because I was going to a new school. My brother was going into third grade at his same school. I was really nervous, OK, fearful, as to what I was going to do not seeing the lunch lady, Gladys, who always gave me a warm “hello” each day and it did not matter that I had a different color lunch ticket; the custodian, Joe, who would give me one of his extra pencils that he always carried around in his pocket because I constantly lost mine; and Francis who was in a lot of my classes helping other students, but always seemed to find time to swing by my desk to make sure I was doing all right.

Going to a different school, with different kids and new teachers was one thing, but what about lunch, my pencil (and not to mention my new locker) and who was going to check in with me during class, and, and….  And, why was my brother, who counted down the days to summer vacation starting with the first day of school, wasn’t scared at all about third grade? Being a part of the same family, how could we be so different?

My brother always had his “buddies” over to our house throughout the school year and summer. My “connections” with school ended when I went home on the bus and during the summer months. My brother and his friends never talked about school; they mostly talked about earning enough money, once they were through with high school, to buy snowmobiles, going hunting and so on. On occasion, my mom and dad would remind my brother that he would probably need to work some overtime to be able to afford those kinds of luxuries. My thoughts were about how to be able to go to school beyond high school, as well as who is going to help me find my bus on the first day of sixth grade?

My brother had a support system through his peers and mine was the adults at school. I think that is why summer vacation was not so exciting. I, still to this day, get a bit melancholy about knowing summer vacation is near. But, I also know, Tuesday, Sept. 4, the first day of school, will be here before we know it. In the mean time, as I have seen many fifth-graders transition to sixth grade, there will be a lot of people to make sure lunch goes well, pencils are available, you get to the right classes and there is help for you to find your bus.

When my brother and I get together, we talk about his job at the mill and how he just got his license to drive a forklift. He got a raise in pay and better hours. He also just purchased a four-wheeler as part of celebrating his promotion. Also just recently, my brother said, with a devilish smile, “I bet you are excited for summer vacation.” I love my brother.

Please keep your students reading over the summer and just think there are only (as I write this) 97 days until the first day of school!

Dr. Jinger Gustafson is the associate director of middle schools for the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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