Back to School! Must be September…with all that comes with it. I have always loved the smell of newly sharpened pencils and notebooks just opened. Put me in a room full of books and I can occupy myself for hours. “Back to school” can mean delight for some and dread for others. I actually never cared for school – growing up or sending my children off to school. I liked being home, as a child, and I loved having our children home. Yet, there comes a day that vacation is over, and the work of children begins again in earnest…at school.
The Tuesday after Labor Day marks the beginning of the public school year here in Virginia, and my mind is busy with images of kids of all ages in the latest coolest outfit with all the appropriate age-specific accessories (backpack, lunchbox, cell phone, etc.). More than even the kids, I think of the parents who entrust their loves to teachers and staff, some of whom they may not even know really…except for maybe the rushed Open House introductions.
More even than the parents, it’s those teachers, I want to focus on. How do they prepare for the onslaught of the first day of school? To receive 20-25 little strangers into their classroom. How do they begin to build order and community among these little strangers? These , coming from different home cultures, some not native English speakers. How do they sort out who needs what to help them learn best? It’s all a great mystery to me.
Then there are those first day tears…or first day fears that are harder to recognize. These teachers just seem to know, and they work to settle these young ones and to stoke confidence in their hearts.
I have always admired the giftings of teachers – adults able to enter the world of their students and render opportunities to learn and inspire in just such a way these young ones can grasp. Not just to master content but to learn how to be good citizens in their particular community (be it 3rd grade or 10th). It’s a shame when teachers stay so long – or too long tired – in the classroom such that they lose their passion for teaching (or is it for learning?). They still have impact, and hopefully for good. Hopefully. I don’t know any teachers like that right now, and today could be a fresh start.
Right now, I am well-acquainted with some wonderful teachers who are greeting their new class of students today, and I want to say to them, “Thank you.” Thank you for thinking of these students through the summer, although they did not as yet have names or faces…yet you were already planning for a good year for them.
Thank you for preparing your classroom to be a bright and colorful place that will delight their imaginations. Thank you for filling their space with books, and floor pillows, and games, and art, and math manipulatives, and computer programming – to touch the hearts and minds of each of your students with their unique learning strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for not taking yourself too seriously or them too lightly. Thanks for your understanding of which students need to be drawn out and which other ones need to be settled down. Beginnings are important, and your students have so much to learn from you about starting well.
And then finishing strong. Thanks for determining to stick with them through the year. For not giving up on the ones who seem to have just too much going against them to be successful. We never know, do we? And for those students who just seem to have everything going for them, thank you for challenging them to serve others, to think critically, and to lead in ways that go deeper than popularity.
Thank you for applying all your “super powers” for their benefit – be they little ones or the almost grown ones – including seeing their parents (or grandparents or other guardians) as some of your best resources. It means more work for you, but it could make all the difference…not just for that student, but for their adults as well.
So thanks, teachers…it’s a new year. And you’re ready.