The school bus honks its horn, the first sign that school is about to start the first day. I look out and scan the neighbourhood, the little kids anxiously waiting to get to the first class of the year. Lucky kids, I think, getting on a real school bus. Back in the day, the school bus was a state-of-the-art Bombardier snowmobile that roared out its incredible mileage of two miles per gallon, a ski on one side and a wheel on the other. This hybrid snow machine/ land vehicle was able to transport several kids at a time through any kind of terrain and after several weeks, I was pretty sure that both the driver and students were slowly going deaf.

The school, which was freshly painted by the summer students (entirely by brush and not by roller), glistened in the fall early morning sun. In those days, school actually started sometime in September and there was no such thing as goose break. For many students, it was also the time they would leave their parents and not see them until Christmas, or the following summer.

Today, of course, schools are in every community and you don’t really have to leave family to go to school. The atmosphere in class is really about getting back with long-lost summer friends as everyone gets assigned to different classes and new school chums are made. Aaahhh, the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil takes me back to the past again, then, the school bell rings and the kids disappear indoors and I snap back to the present state-of-mind. Where did the time go, I wonder, when it was me and my buddies heading towards an unknown year.

Questions came up, especially about the French teacher, would we be able to learn a little more than passé composé? We learn, after awhile, that we would learn the fine art of the French tongue from repeated onslaught of verbs and other things that sounded almost exactly the same, except for the silly accent, which we could never master completely.

Cree was a language that could not be heard, except in the freedom of recess, which by the way, was the best part of school. A big difference between now and then, is that the cigarette never showed up and no one was addicted to the exotic taste of nicotine and tar. Today, the pile of butts that surround the school in a perimeter of 30 paces is a testimony to the incredible power of peer pressure.

The first day of school is either an interesting time, or totally frightening for the shy kids. It’s still the same today. Even the teachers seem to be younger than in the past, where bearded guys were a common sight and usually the female teachers had some kind of tight hair bun and granny glasses. There was an occasional teacher who wore a miniskirt, but, hey, teachers were an unusual bunch.

Today, the teacher is clad in the latest fashions, except for the Phys-Ed guy, who still wears sweatpants with lines down the side, just to show who’s earned their stripes by doing 100 push-ups in a minute flat. Kids are fortunate today, wearing the latest style of sneaker. For some of us back in the day, barefoot provided the next best thing to rubber on the floor. But, the sports haven’t changed much, and neither has the athlete. We still seem to excel at this class.

One day, the pencil will be replaced by the computer, but hopefully, the auto correct will never be enabled, just to make the task of doing your homework a little harder. My pencil will always stay sharp, and it never needs to be recharged.