the first signs of fall

This summer I walked hand-in-hand with Eddie into the building that used to be my high school.  The cafeteria housed his gymnastics class, and it was the first time I had walked into the building since graduation in the spring of 1996.

After I graduated, the school turned into a second middle school for the district, housing all ninth graders in the second level.  A new high school was built on the north side of town. Cortney had his senior year in that new high school.

Since then, the building I knew as high school but is now a middle school evacuated the ninth grade into the two high schools that now make up our district.  Things have definitely changed in 17 years.

However, as I held my four-year old’s hand into this building I had entered thousands of times, I was knocked back to the mid-nineties by the smell of chlorine from the pools and whatever universal thing they clean schools with to make them all smell like teenage years.

I had to fight the old habit to turn left and head to the band room. That is the power of smells, isn’t it?

I am starting my eleventh year of teaching high school in just a few weeks, but I have started the pilgrimage back to my classroom a few weeks ago.

As I walked into the halls, each and every time, the smells of teaching and learning come back to me. When I open the door to my classroom I smell the cleanser and my muted vanilla scent along with that smell of school.

When I’ve been away from the smell, coming back to it gives me a sense of purpose, of renewal.

2013-08-12 15.17.08

It seems like every fall is a new adventure. Ever since my first year I could never predict what I would be teaching, where I would be, or what my student load would look like. Shoot, some years I didn’t even know if I would have a job because of all the budget cuts.

In all the years of teaching, I have never been able to answer the question of “so what will you be teaching this year?” with a confident answer. Nor could I just say, “same as usual”. There really hasn’t ever been a “usual”.

This year is no exception.

Over the weekend Eddie spotted the first red leaves on the trees by our house.

2013-08-09 11.24.00There it is.

The first signs of the changes that are coming.


This year I am teaching 12th grade English for the first time along with 11th grade English. I am also teaching a semester elective called Mass Media for the first time.

On top of that, I am continuing to take two online classes toward the 30 credits beyond my Masters degree.

AND I just took on teaching an evening writing class at the local community college two nights a week.

In order to do all these things, something had to give. Unfortunately I had to take a step back from my weekly posts at Borderless News and Views. This was hard for me since I love to write about my views–especially on the subject of education. But I also couldn’t let opportunities for me to make a difference in education pass me by either. Eventually I will be back, and in the meantime they are letting me sporadically post there. So watch for me!

Oh. And there’s one more thing.

2013-08-09 11.38.27

This guy is starting preschool in September.

All the other craziness aside, this is what is the hardest for me to wrap my brain around.

He and I are both SUPER excited and just a little bit nervous. But we have been talking about it. He likes the idea of going to school because to him, school is awesome. The big kids get to go to school. His mom works at a school. His mom and dad both have gone to school in his lifetime.  And now he gets to do that too.

This year we will start some new Back To School traditions, and as much as it hurts my heart to watch summer slip away, I am excited for the change that is peeking at us through the trees and blowing around in the wind.




About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I still feel very enmeshed in summer. We just got back and I’m up to my elbows in weedy gardens and home projects. Fortunately we have time. School starts in September and my classes don’t start til the end of Sep so I have time to get organized.

  2. We are talking back to school – we start in September – and this week I noticed that it is getting darker a little earlier each night. It won’t be long now before fall arrives. Right now I don’t feel ready – but I know that as the time approaches, I usually begin to look forward to it. Hopefully this year will be no exception!

  3. Ours went back to school last week. My high school I graduated from is now the middle school for our county. It is hard to walk in there with my youngest who is a 7th grader now and not go back to high school. I was the last class to graduate from there.

  4. I have a secret: I have ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher. I almost regret not going directly into teaching out of high school instead of getting my Bacehlor degree first. Once I finished that, the teaching landscape was horrible. No jobs available. I was a waitress in a restaurant and my coworkers were other teachers – unable to actually work in their field. So this makes my heart long for that dream that never was.

    I have always loved Back to School and I am excited for you and Eddie as you start your new years. Always so much potential on those first days! 🙂

  5. You have so much going on. The mass media class sounds wonderful.

  6. I love the start of the school year – new beginnings and all of that. Everything changes and there are opportunities to do things better than ever before. Here’s to a great new year!

  7. I am not a teacher, nor do I work in any field remotely related to education. But I did love school, and have fond memories of K-12, college, and grad school (I’d be a professional student if I could, I think!) Even so, I still love fall, and still have that sense of “a new beginning” every fall that you noted. I have vacation at the beach planned for next week…but after that — bring on fall!!

  8. Awe! Your little guy is so cute…he’s going to do great in preschool. It’s a little sad when a teacher has to worry about her job and future. I bet teaching mass media will be fun. I often have to give up things because I stretch myself to thin.

  9. There is something about the smell of a school, the sights, and the sounds that immediately transport me back in time to when I attended high school.

    I think that we had exactly one week of summer this year in Michigan. It makes me sad because we haven’t gotten to use the pool half as much as I would have liked to.

  10. I’m so excited for you and your community college teaching! I’d so take your class.

  11. “I had to fight the habit to turn left and head to the band room.” ….*sniff*…..

  12. We are also in the middle of back-to-school preparations. I finished working summer camp on Friday and these next two weeks until the start of school will be busy… So much more paperwork, uniform buying, school supplies, books etc. So while we won’t see any changes in the weather that signal the beginning of Fall – we will soon see a change in our schedule. I’m still waiting for word on a possible preschool teacher position beginning after Labor Day. That will add a whole other level to our prep work. Good luck to you and Eddie. 🙂

  13. I’m super excited for all the positive changes in your life, though I understand the bittersweetness of milestones like Eddie going to preschool.

    This summer seems to have flown by, hasn’t it?

  14. Because it doesn’t get cool here until later I don’t associate fall with back to school. With Halloween and Thanksgiving? Yes, but not back to school. What that really means is that summer lasts forever here.