Michelle Martin

Back to school again

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

When school starts for Teresa this year on Aug. 22, it will mark the first time since 2003 that I’ve only had one child heading into the classroom for a new school year, and it will mark the last time I have a child in elementary school.

Not that Teresa’s education is over; I expect that we have four years of high school and four years of college — at least — still ahead of us. But it’s the last year of school supply lists that specify Clorox wipes, Kleenex and paper towels in addition to pens, pencils and, in recent years, headphones and dry erase markers.

I’m even a little sad that I don’t have to fill that list, since her school offers the option of buying school supplies through a company that will have everything sitting on her desk in a box on the first day. Taking that option seems like a no-brainer to me; I might be able to buy the stuff for less than the package price, but probably only by making multiple trips to different stores over several weeks to take advantage of sales: notebooks for 35 cents each at Target one week, glue sticks for 50 cents for a pack of two at Walmart the next.

And my dining room table is no longer a staging area from the end of July to the start of school. At least, not for school supplies.

All the better to use the last couple of weeks of summer as a time to take a deep breath and get ready for the year to come. To get ready for early mornings and long days. For homework and standardized tests and reassuring all of our kids that their worth is not measured by a letter on a report card or a number on a test report, but they should still do their best. For middle school drama and preschool separation anxiety and not-making-the-team heartbreak.

It’s already way too late for the teachers preparing their classrooms to relax, or the school administrators filling open spots in their faculties and getting everybody up to speed on changes for the coming year. I hope they got some time earlier in the summer to rest and restore and recreate.

That, for me, is the time that I can listen for the small, still voice, the “tiny, whispering sound” that Elijah heard and knew God was speaking. That’s the voice that we want all our students, and all of our parents, teachers, support staff, administrators and everyone else, to listen for.

For now, I’m going to buy some notebooks and glue sticks for old times’ sake. They always come in handy over the course of the year, when another notebook gets lost or we need a glue stick at home and the ones that came in the kit are at school. And I’ll probably pick up some Clorox wipes and paper towels, too. It won’t be hard to find a school that needs them.


  • family life