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.
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.