Thursday, September 07, 2006

First Day

The first day of school starts in such a rush of excitement and anxiety. We teachers have to get to school earlier than usual, so all of us with small children at home have to do the day care drop offs earlier than usual, while our little ones are not yet used to being dropped off into the hands of their new teachers. I always wish there was a way to do this transition without me and my children going through the adjustment phase at the same time. The boys started going back to day care on Tuesday, so they have had a few days of practice, but it is not enough to make us totally comfortable and easy about it. There is no way to say good bye without bringing that anxious, worried, tearful look on your baby’s face into your heart, into the car with you as you drive away.

All of us special teachers always have the duty of greeting the school buses on the first day, collecting information about who is really riding the bus and how they are getting home that first day. It is an elaborately coordinated effort, getting through all this newness in just a few short hours. This year the music teacher, the gym teacher, the science teacher and I stood together in the early coolness commiserating about how difficult it was to leave our little ones. The buses were slow in arriving, and then it was all a mad dash to keep the cars of families dropping off kids moving through car pool and out of the school bus lanes, catching the buses as they came through, directing new students to their classes, checking names off our clipboards. Twenty minutes of whirlwind and then half an hour to have another cup of coffee and see if the computer lab is prepared for my first class.

The brightness and eagerness of the children’s faces on the first day is dazzling. Their hair is freshly done, their clothes are new, their shoes squeak. They want to tell you what new computers they got this summer, where they traveled, who is new in the class. It is difficult to think of settling down and actually focusing on a task, but at the same time they are ready to get in there and get to work. After the first few minutes we are humming along as if we never left for vacation. It is hard for me to remember what grade they have come to, the ones I have known for five or six years. They are taller, more mature, but so familiar as they slide back into their chairs and reach for keyboards. The rhythm comes back smoothly, a relief for them when their classroom is all new and they have been listening to new teacher’s voices all morning. Here in the media center they know where they are. The scattering of new students in each class is welcomed, offered guiding hands, enfolded into friendship.

By the end of the day we are all exhausted, none the less. The dismissal can be as confusing and anxious as the first few minutes of the day. The youngest students, who have long since forgotten what their mothers told them about pick up or after school or which bus to ride look to us nervously, expecting that the grown ups will direct them to the way safely home. I collected my assigned bus room students and waited with them until their bus was called. I was amused to overhear the eight graders giving words of wisdom to the sixth and seventh graders. Watch out for that math teacher, and the science teacher gives hard homework but he will give you more time if you beg. The best tip: he is always good for a pass to the library.

After the students left for the day teachers all over the building reached for chocolate and sat down to breathe. The first page is turned.


Overwhelmed! said...

I can remember my own excitment at the first day of books, new supplies, new clothes, and a fresh new start at a school year!

I loved the picture you attached. And I love that you all ended the day with chocolate. What a great stress reliever! :)

Third Mom said...

This brings back many memories of the eight years I taught. There really is nothing like the first week of school to remind you that there's great promise in the world. And brand new school supplies don't hurt either!