August means that school is around the corner, whether it's kindergarten, prep school or college.
I did all of my schooling in New York City — a place where the classes were overcrowded and the actual building was named after a president who probably lived during the time the school was built.
The best part of all of the schools I went to was that they were all numbered. If you couldn't remember a president's name, you were sure to remember good ol' 123. It had a ring to it, and it made a great school song, too.
My first school was PS 121 in the Bronx. It was less than a mile from my house, so I would walk to it every day. That's something you don't see often in Richmond today. I never saw a school bus in my neighborhood growing up — just a lot of kids walking with their brown lunch bags.
Every morning we would assemble in the schoolyard in lines headed by class monitors. I so wanted to be a class monitor. You got to wear a badge and come to class five minutes late every day. I was that kid who was always singled out for talking or chewing gum. If I had been a class monitor, I would have been the one hauling kids to detention for talking and chewing gum.
Several years later, my family moved, and I went to PS 93. I noticed that there were many similarities with PS 121; again I spent time in detention for chewing gum and talking. A year later, I attended JHS 123 — another number and another chance to walk to school.
I signed up to be a hall monitor, but my gum-chewing résumé followed me, so I wasn't chosen. Eventually, I was asked to head the audiovisual squad. All I had to do was show movies, and I got to miss art and home economics. There was just one problem — I didn't know much about the film projector, so if the picture went dark or the film broke, the students pointed at me to fix it, and I never could. I was embarrassed, but I had my gum to keep me calm.
I also remember that we had fences around the schoolyards to keep us from wandering away during lunch hour. And if, by chance, we wanted to make a break for it, there was always a hall monitor who would save the day.
If only I had chewed less gum in first grade, I would have received that monitor badge, and there would have been a new sheriff in town.