As a toddler, the idea of school fascinated and excited me. My mother chose to step away from her banking career for a few years to care for me and to teach me educational lessons at home rather than enroll me into a preschool.
Kids TV series served as secondary instructors. “Blue’s Clues” developed my critical-thinking and deductive-reasoning skills while “Little Bear” increased my emotional intelligence. I recall watching the show “Franklin” at 4 years old, where I saw the titular anthropomorphic turtle climb into a yellow school bus and see a host of friends.
Every afternoon, I welcomed my older sister home after she hopped off the school bus, and I knew I wanted my turn to attend school. I asked my parents, “When do I get to go to school?”
“When you’re 5,” they misguidedly answered.
See, the new academic year in Mississippi begins each August. However, my birthday is in April. I was flabbergasted when my fifth birthday rolled around and I was not allowed to join my sister in riding the bus. I recall raising a fuss in the grocery aisle of Wal-Mart when my mother told me I had to wait another three months and change. “But you said when I turned 5, I could go to school. I’m 5!”
My tantrum was temporary, of course, as my mother gave me “the look,” and I returned to quietly eying the shelves around me.
Oh, but you better believe when that first day came, I eagerly stood by our bus stop at the crack of dawn. My house was the first home on the bus’ route, so I had a chance to marvel at how large the bus felt on the inside with all its empty seats.
That afternoon, instead of getting to ride the bus home, my mother picked me up. As an adult, I understand why she would be excited to see her young son and ask about his first day, but I was caught up in disappointment over not getting to ride the bus again, as if it were an amusement-park ride I had looked forward to patroning again all day.
From that day forward, I was a bus-only kid instead of a carbell kid, something I lamented in later years after the thrill of the long, loud and bumpy bus rides wore off. Nevertheless, my appreciation for school never really died. Academics felt like a competitive sport, one I performed well in, overall. I loved learning and the challenges school presented.
Even now, five years after I’ve graduated from college, this forever student feels excited when helping his loved ones with their own schooling endeavors. My brother is a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi who hopes to be an art-history teacher. My sister-in-law just started her second year at Jones College as a culinary student. My spouse has registered to resume their college education in January.
Higher education opens minds to a wider worldview than those we develop in our more isolated hometowns. The more we learn about science, economics and people with different backgrounds than our own, the more empathetic we become, and the more we strive to effect positive change.
The Mississippi Free Press functions as an agent for change and as a vehicle for factual information about our state and its goings-on. Our readership knows that knowledge is power, which is why many of you donate and why I choose to call this newsroom home.
As someone who values school, sure, I get nervous when I see that multiple presidential candidates at Fox News’ Republican debate on Aug. 23, 2023, claimed they would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. I worry over privatization, though that topic could spark a different editor’s note entirely. Nevertheless, when I see those around me get excited over the new school year or otherwise making strides in their education, I cannot help but smile.