Lighten The Load.

A recent news story about kids having backpacks that are too heavy because of all the devices they have to carry now reminded me of my own days carrying a backpack full of books to and from school. I thought that was a problem technology was supposed to solve. Even if kids are going back to school rather than learning from home shouldn’t it be possible to cram so much into a lighter laptop or tablet that they don’t need to carry a lot of stuff? The story also gives a good rule of thumb for determining how much is too much: a backpack should be no more than twenty percent of a child’s weight, which is fine, but I wish they’d included a chart of something because I know that some parents are overwhelmed enough with their kids’ math homework and don’t need more.

That also reminded me of my old school backpack, a sturdy blue bag that zipped up and that I carried well after college. Outside of school it was great, very reliable and able to hold everything I’d need for short trips: a toothbrush, a lot of books to keep me occupied, something to write on, and if there was room left over maybe some clothes and stuff.

I got it at the start of sixth grade and in school it dutifully carried all my schoolbooks and everything else I remembered to put in it, which was the problem. I was an above average student—I maintained a consistent C+ throughout my academic career—but I was also really forgetful. One of my teachers even described me as “an absent-minded professor”, although I can’t remember which one. And in sixth grade I had an English teacher who assigned homework every single night. English was my favorite subject but it was also my first subject of the morning and by the end of the day I’d sometimes forget to put the handout the teacher had given us or my English book with the appropriate chapter written down in my backpack, and I’d get home and panic. On a few occasions I was able to copy friends’ homework on the bus, but, like I said, English was my favorite subject, and I took a special pride in being able to do my own work. Besides it wasn’t like math where everybody was supposed to get the same answer. If my definition of “suspicious” was exactly the same as someone else the teacher might be…well, I’m sure there’s a word for it.

Source: https://www.atascocita.com

So a couple of times I just didn’t turn in my homework which was easy because we just bundled all our papers together and turned them in at once before she’d start on the lesson of the day, and I noticed something funny. She didn’t notice when I didn’t turn in my homework, or at least she didn’t say anything, and it didn’t affect my grade. So I sometimes did my homework and sometimes I didn’t. Surprisingly the fact that I could get away with not turning in my homework was one thing I always remembered.

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8 Comments

  1. M.L. James

    Chris, I think your English teacher had her priorities straight. Also, has there ever been a child that didn’t make it out of school because their back broke due to the weight of their backpack? I had to walk ten miles to school and ten miles back, in the snow with no shoes and no overcoat with a heavy back pack!😂🤣😂
    M.L. James recently posted…It’s Summer Olympics 2021!My Profile

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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I don’t know of any broken backs but I do know of a few broken backpacks. Also this is true: in junior high I did walk home from school and enjoyed it. I know that’s weird but it gave me a feeling of independence and also if I ever forgot something either at home or at school I knew it would be easy trip to go get it.

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  2. Arionis

    I remember carrying a ton of books around school sans backpack. For some reason I don’t think we were allowed them. I also remember there being a social stigmatism where girls were allowed to carry all their books in both arms, but boys had to only carry theirs with one arm draped around them. Whoa to the boy who got caught carrying books with both arms. He would be labeled a sissy. Don’t ask me how I had so much knowledge of this.
    Arionis recently posted…Just Another HikeMy Profile

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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      As tempted as I am I won’t ask. I’ll just assume you always carried your books with one arm draped around them, and that your teachers didn’t load you up with so much homework you ever had to carry your books with two hands.

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  3. mydangblog

    I never carried a backpack in high school because I never did homework, which may account for the fact that I had to do an extra semester to upgrade my marks to get into university. But I had a backpack in uni, because I had to pay my own tuition and wasn’t about to lose all that money! I still have it today, just for sentimental reasons:-)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      For some reason I pictured you carrying all your university tuition in your backpack which was a rather startling image, even if it was all in toonies. Anyway you just reminded me that the university I went to had a very small campus that you could walk across in just a few minutes but some of us still carried books around in backpacks because it was too much trouble to go to the dorm if we had back-to-back classes.

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  4. ANN J KOPLOW

    My son thinks that his back problems might be related to the humongous backpack he used when he was in high school — I think your calculated estimate about backpack-to-body-weight percentage is correct. I also want to thank you for always lightening my load with your posts, Chris.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 3154: Amazing placesMy Profile

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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve always thought of education as only having long-term benefits but clearly there are downsides too.

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