Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

As I have mentioned before, I find myself wallowing in a certain level of nostalgia this time of year.

I started out my career as a teacher. I graduated from college with a major in religion, but I minored in math and Latin – and I even had the foresight to take enough education courses to fulfill certification requirements to be a teacher. I started out teaching algebra, geometry and Latin for several years while Tom worked and went to graduate school.

And I enjoyed that special relationship teachers often have with their students.

When we moved to South Carolina, I worked for a small weekly newspaper in Aiken for a while. Then I took a hiatus to have children.

From there, when Mac started kindergarten, I worked briefly as a sacred studies teacher at Mead Hall. That same year, I started working as a very part-time reporter for The Star.

But I didn’t give up the desire to teach. Since I began at The Star just covering evening meetings – Aiken County Council, Aiken County Public School District, Aiken County Planning Commission, North Augusta City Council, etc. – I could easily fit in a continuing job at Mead Hall. I taught computer science and Latin, adding math to the mix when the school added middle school years.

For the next 10 years I balanced both jobs; however, as time marched on, my responsibilities increased everywhere. As Sam and Mim aged and had a number of physical ailments (several surgeries for Mim, diabetes – and the vision problems often associated with diabetes – for Sam) I took on more there. At Mead Hall I took on testing responsibilities, the yearbook, even a stint as interim head of school.

Then Sam and Mim decided to retire in place, and they sold the paper to Aiken Communications (the Aiken Standard). The folks at the Standard needed someone to take over the responsibility of the day-to-day running of The Star, and they offered it to me – but I had to make a choice: I could work full time for The Star as its news editor, or I could continue at Mead Hall. But I couldn’t do both.

I chose The Star, thinking I’d still be closely involved with the schools. After all, The Star was all about what was happening in North Augusta, and a huge component of that has always been the schools.

So most of the time I was pretty satisfied with the path I had chosen – until this time of year rolls around. Then I find, even after all this time, I miss teaching. I miss getting a classroom ready. I miss the smell of a new grade book. I miss writing all those names in that grade book. I miss the anticipation – and minor anxiety – of learning the names of a new crew of students. I miss the start of school, seeing all those faces filled with excitement and a healthy feeling of trepidation, as they learn what each teacher expects and what their new textbooks have to offer. I miss the early days of the school year, when a teacher begins to recognize the different personalities and situations – who is happy and ready for school, who is apprehensive, who is a natural leader, who doesn’t recognize what a leader he/she could be, who can be depended upon to do what the teacher asks and do it well every time, who struggles with the traditional classroom setting (those who are dyslexic, ADHD, painfully shy, dealing with family situations that definitely impact learning – a whole litany of individual struggles as well as assets).

Luckily, I get a taste of that old life – for good or bad – through my grandchildren. Last week I went with daughter Cat as she registered Cade and Payton for the coming year.

Here, I must say if you parents had some difficulties registering your kids, I feel your pain. Aiken County schools have gone toward all-online registration. When it goes the way it’s supposed to, the system works quickly and efficiently. You can do everything online, even pay your fees.

But when it doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to, it can be extremely frustrating.

In our case, Cat tried to register her kids from the comfort of home. But it didn’t go well. Part of the problem is ours. Cade, 11, is going into sixth grade. His elementary school sent his files to one middle school, but not the one he’s zoned for and not the one he will attend. (In elementary school, we had permission to attend school in the area in which I live, but he’s returning to his home area for middle school.)

The good news is that the people in both schools (Cade and Payton’s) could not have been more helpful. In fact, the bookkeeper at Cade’s new school took the time to set up (successfully) a district account for both kids, even though Payton is still at the elementary school. Even then, it took nearly two hours – God bless her.

By the time you read this, most students will have had the opportunity to visit their respective schools, so some of the fear and trepidation will have dissipated. While they may not know their specific teachers yet, they will be more familiar with their schools, having had the time to walk around the buildings, see the various teachers in their school and sign up for some of those things that are important to them. Parents, too, will have had the chance to join the PTO, purchase yearbooks and sign up to volunteer.

So as you get closer to the Aug. 19 start date, please do a couple of things: Make sure your child is as ready as he/she can been – well-rested, well-fed and armed with all the necessary supplies first thing. Do what you can do help the teachers – if a teacher has a supply wish list for the classroom, send something in, if you can. (A couple of teachers I know have asked this year for donations with which she will provide books to keep for every one of her students periodically.) Volunteer, if you’re able – you don’t have to be a parent in a school to do this.

And above all, say a prayer that the 2019-2020 school year will be the best ever for all students, faculty, staff and administration.