With the cooling of the air comes the realization that summer vacation is ending and school will be starting soon. This propels a lot of parents to get into high gear and go shopping for school. Back to school sales lure us into the abyss of school supply shopping. Even children fall prey to this commercialization where everyone is made to believe in order to be successful each year a whole new gamut of supplies and “necessities” need to be purchased. The supply lists sent home from school which include the ‘one box of facial tissue’ and ‘one box of band-aid’ to alleviate the pains of an already maxed out system are not uncommon, but I’m attending to the self written lists that go on and on into the world of addictive commercialism. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, the average family with children enrolled in kindergarten through high school will spend $669.28 on back-to-school purchases. 17 states now offer a “sales tax holiday” giving families a break when purchasing back to school supplies. Others offer an income tax exemption on the same items.
From clothes to shoes to lunch bags to pencil boxes, these harmless necessities may encourage excitedness in school the first few weeks, but the latest version of the tablets, the iPods, the smartphones, and the gazillion other technological luxuries that pervade our lives have gotten out of control.
This week’s image of the madrasa Bou Inania of Fez, Morocco was to remind ourselves of how little a student actually needs. The Madrasa has student dorms/rooms located around the inner courtyard. Each room is just that- a room, a space for solitude and focus. Unlike today’s classrooms or college dorms which are hyper-wired with technology, things and ‘to buy’ charts. The beauty and simplicity of the madrasa resonates with me to this day. It is the only madrasa in Fez which is open to non-Muslim visitors and perhaps that’s why we hear about it’s spectacular architecture so much. Focusing on the building and it’s outside beauty we see what we are missing in our schools and classrooms today. We, as teachers, over stimulate with bulletin boards and artwork outside and wires and smart pads inside. Recently, school districts in New Jersey, Los Angeles and others threw out their laptops and iPads to get students back to education and teachers back to teaching rather than fixing the multitude of issues rising from having to troubleshoot devices on a daily basis.
Let’s arm our students with what is most important and necessary at the start of a school year first- an enthusiastic attitude, gratitude and excitement- the rest can follow later, InshaAllah.
Have a great year!