I can’t say how many years in late July when I’ve written a hype column about the beginning of a new school year. Every new school year is your new beginning.

Maybe that new haircut will turn some heads. Maybe a new slate of classes will give you a brand new subject you love. Maybe you’ll make a new group of friends helping make this year even more memorable.

These are just a few of the maybes about how good School Year ’20-’21 can be.

I know things will definitely be different for administrators, teachers, students and parents. It’s the kind of different we’ve never witnessed before in our lifetimes.

Even as procedures are still being figured out to make this school year run smoothly and efficiently, they could potentially change, change again and change a couple more times after that.

No matter what, you, your teachers and your parents are all in it together. When the members of a team push themselves hard enough to win a state championship, it’s a bond and accomplishment they’ll share for the rest of their lives.

When we get together for mini-class reunions every winter, there are a few common stories about basketball games, field parties or something dumb somebody said in class. Not everyone was at every place together, though. With all those years the 47 of us spent together, we never had one major thing we collectively went through together.

I still talk to plenty of my classmates on a somewhat regular basis, and a good many others are just a Facebook message away. We never had that one centralized thing, though, that made us super tight and supportive of each other.

What you’ve got coming up in the days and weeks to come is a fresh start to find a common bond like you’ve never shared before – being schooled during the pandemic.

Like administrators have said, there’s no match to learning like in-class instruction.

You can absorb lessons through distance learning on Google Classroom. However, you can’t relate to the conversations quite as well at your 10-year reunion about the full experience if you were logging on from home.

For the younger ones, you won’t be able to think back to your senior year about your teacher’s tips for proper hand washing and social distancing. Hopefully, those lessons will help you fight off plenty of cold and flu seasons for years to come.

I’ve heard the references in valedictorians’ speeches about learning how to tell time and sticking together through the fears of moving up to junior high. No matter what grade you’re in or what grade you teach, stick together through this year.

You’ve heard it 100-something times by now that we’re living in the new norm. Temperature checks and eating lunch in class may be something you weren’t used to last year, but they may all be part of the new norm now. As hot as masks make us and how they tend to make glasses fog over, they’re part of the new norm for now too.

Whether you were part of a group of friends nerding-out about “Harry Potter” books or a group of friends with heads full of MLB stats, everybody’s on an even playing level now.

Whereas one clique probably couldn’t relate to going to the big game last year, another probably couldn’t relate to a super intense game of Dungeons and Dragons. Now, you’ve got that something to relate to with the new school year.

I’m sure the last nine weeks of last school year were tough with the sudden disruptions of not seeing friends, distance learning packets and having no clue when you’d be able to go back to school.

The time’s almost here to get back to a little bit of that normal.

With previous school years, you’ve probably been super excited to tell somebody about what you did on your summer vacation and see everybody again. Now you’ve got five months’ worth of stories to tell and friends to see.

Is this school year going to be different? Absolutely. Is this school year going to be educational? Like none you’ve ever passed. Is this school year a new start? That’s an understatement.

Ask scary as masks and the unknowns of the semester to come may be, somebody else is thinking and going through the exact same thing. Stick together through this because you’re going to come out as a more well-rounded student and part of a bond whatever this year holds can never take away.

Ray Van Dusen is the managing editor of the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.

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