GOT THOSE BACK-TO-SCHOOL BLUES? IT SURE BEATS THE REAL WORLD

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Hey kids, listen up. Especially you teens.

Summer is over. You’re back in school, or soon will be. That means in bed at a reasonable hour. That means no more sleeping until noon. Pretty soon, you’ll be getting out of bed and it will still be dark outside.

When I say summer is over, I mean it’s over now. The calendar may say the first day of autumn is at the end of September. Wrong. For the rest of the world, summer officially ends on Sept. 23. But for you, the instant you step inside that vaguely familiar world, the summer of 2007 is history.

You can’t ease into the new school year. And if you think you can, you are sadly mistaken. You’ll be getting a progress report sometime around the beginning of October, telling you that you’re in danger of flunking first-quarter math. Your parents are going to have to sign it. They’ll get on your case.

Sounds like fun, huh? Like a day at the beach. Oops. Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up the beach, the sand, the sun, the waves, the babes and the guys. I’ll try not to mention it again.

Get those things out of your mind. Start thinking about reading assignments, long-term projects, daily homework assignments and tests. Oh, and be ready for those dreaded pop quizzes. Get used to juggling school, sports, music and drama classes with your part-time job. Oh, and forget about a social life. No time for that. You have homework and studying to do.

Am I bringing you down? Good. It’s about time somebody sits you down and gives you the hard facts of life. Life is hard. Suck it up. Wear a helmet. Nobody is waiting to give you a handout. You want to end up with a low-paying, dead-end job? Go ahead, be my guest.

Prepare yourself for boring classes about boring subjects taught by boring teachers. Will you ever really need to know the different classes of insects? Get ready for that teacher who is just way too thrilled to be back in school and has spent the last two weeks decorating the classroom with cool posters of Tom Brady, Jason Varitek and Kevin Garnett. What you don’t know is that they had to come in and take down the poster of Michael Vick. That teacher is just so happy to begin a new school year. Get used to the two words, “clean slate.”

And here’s another thing you can worry about while you’re shaking the beach sand out of your sneakers. Oops, sorry. I slipped again with another beach reference. What clothes are you going to wear on your first day back? What about your hair? Or that pimple that seems to grow exponentially by the minute? Will you be cool and fit right in, or will you be the nerdiest person in the building? You thought A&F was in this year? That’s so 2006. Everyone’s wearing AE now. Feeling the pressure yet?

But hey, don’t worry. You’ll get some days off for teacher conferences. You get about five days off at Thanksgiving, another week or 10 days around Christmas. You get a week vacation in February and another one in April. And there are, of course, snow days. What are you complaining about? Try living in the real world where you’re lucky if you get three weeks off in a year.

For many of you, mental atrophy set in a long time ago. You won’t be ready for this until March. There is no chance that you’ll even read this. For the rest of you, work hard. Hit the ground running. Stay on top of your syllabus. Don’t let it get away from you.

Little steps. Study a little bit every night. Get long-term projects done early. Don’t let them creep up on you. And maybe, just maybe, when you graduate from high school and then college, you’ll land a good job that actually offers you a four-week vacation.

E-mail Dennis Shaughnessey at dshaughnessey@thevalleydispatch.com.