First Day of School

 It’s become difficult to tell when to post this blog. My Arizona grandson’s year-round schedule started back in July. Buses rolled in Hattiesburg last week. My Texas and Maryland grands start closer to traditional post-Labor Day, waiting until the last week of August. I found the first day of school exciting both as a student and as a teacher. I compromise on the date and offer this tribute to its importance, slightly skewed to early elementary where I spent most of my teaching career.

The teacher waited for the sound of the bell, prepared and ready for the first day of school with nametags on desks, bulletin boards completed in an attractive educational manner, and storage cubbies for each child. The principal had insisted that no child could be admitted until that first bell rang.
    One gong and the mayhem that followed made a fire alarm in a crowded movie theater look tame. Parents who had walked in with their children on this first day tried to engage the teacher in conversation to explain specific needs for their little darlings. One small boy wept silently, and a little girl wailed. Another child pulled on the teacher’s shirttail from behind, persistently saying, “I have a note from my mother.”
    An outsider watching would have been awed to watch the teacher. She graciously promised to set up appointments with the overanxious parents before sending them quickly on their way, comforted that she would take care of their Roberts and Rebeccas. She turned to calm the crying children by showing them their special place in school with their own names on their desks. She explained to the shirt-puller that many children had notes from their parents, and she would read them carefully at a special time for collecting notes from home.
    As she challenged the children to find their desks with their names and put their supplies away, theJackson is ready! teacher collected notes and lunch money. Quiet and organization soon replaced chaos as children became busy with the activity the teacher had previously laid out on their desks. The teacher read the parent notes, took the lunch count, and completed other administrative tasks quickly. She called the roll asking children to tell her if they were used to being called by a name other than the official one she had been given and promising adjustments to the ones on their desks if they were needed.
    Business behind, she stood and said, “Welcome to a wonderful year in school.”
Chalk one up for a competent teacher. [The teacher could also be a “he” – a possibility I would like to see happen more often.]

My wishes for teachers this year include students eager to learn, parents who reinforce their high standards, and administrators who support their good teaching practices.

My wishes for students are teachers who see them as individuals, who creatively figure out how to meet curriculum demands of the system but focus on making the classroom an exciting place to learn, and who bring a contagious love of real books with them – and I’m not just talking about reading and literature teachers.

I will leave unsaid what I wish for politicians who know little about education and still insist on making the rules.