Tuesday, September 06, 2011
The First Day
If you are not a teacher, you've been working all summer. If you are a teacher, you've already been back to work for a couple of weeks. However, this is a special week because children of all ages are experiencing the events that will inform the rest of their lives - the first day of school.
Now, if you're like me, you remember the first day of school like it was yesterday. I can go further and remember not only my first day of school, but every first day of every new school I went to - 1st grade, high school, college, and my first day of teaching. Why is that?
Is it the fear? Is it the crying? Is it the excitement? Is it the crying? Is it the recognition of a milestone? Is it the crying?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen - tears. I have cried on the first day of every new school experience and you're going to have to deal with it. I surely did. Why are you laughing? Wow. OK, maybe you wouldn't laugh if you knew the whole story. So here I am to illustrate to you my circumstances so that you can gain a better knowledge of who I am and YOURSELVES because I KNOW some of you cry too. It's not just me. Right?
My first "school" experience was 1st Grade because before that was Montessori School and that's all a blur. I skipped Kindergarten because I was already reading at an advanced level. YEAH THAT'S RIGHT. Who's laughing now? Anyway, I was 5 years old and I remember vividly getting out of the car and my father driving away. And there I was . . .
In a vast wasteland.
Of sky blue shirts and navy blue pants from Sears.
Yes, we all wore uniforms in Catholic school, and we did NOT have a playground. We had a parking lot, which is where kids gathered before school, playing various games like four-square (LOVED that game) and jump rope. However, I didn't know ONE person at that school and as I wandered around the parking lot, the tears began to form. Not because I felt alone. But because I suddenly realized that I did not have the courage to speak to anyone I didn't know. What a paralyzing moment. I was in a new place with no friends, and I was too scared to do anything about it. And then I heard it.
"Hi, I'm Ray. What's your name?"
That was the beginning of my first "best friend" relationship in life - Ray Jackson. I never got to tell him "Thank you" for saving me that day.
I was at that 1st school for 8 years. That's a long time in the life of a 13-year old. More than half of my life was spent in the same halls with the same faces. I had been blessed enough to be Homecoming King (I raised the most money by selling mom's oatmeal cookies. Thanks Mom!), and I was my 7th Grade Class President. I won my school Spelling Bee (more on that in a future post), and I was asked to be the speaker for my 8th Grade Classs graduation.
But that was over. The day had come. New school. New place. You know no one. Again.
This school had a uniform too - coat and tie. AND did I mention it was an all-boys' Catholic school?
Insert tears here.
No seriously, I chose this school because of the rigorous academic program and because I wanted to be somewhere completely different than my last school. I got that. Any tears I shed that 1st day were tears of joy.
13th Grade - College
I chose to attend Boston University - a long way from my home in Memphis, TN. Long story short - my mother packed up the car with all of my luggage, we drove from Memphis to Boston, she stayed over one night in a hotel, and after moving me into my dorm, hopped back in the car and drove back to Memphis. I cried because it was the first time I felt like an adult, and I knew that wasn't my mom driving off into the distance . . . it was my childhood.
1st Day as a Teacher
This one hit me by surprise. I didn't think I would have a career as a teacher, but through my work at the Boston Conservatory as director of Project S.E.A.R.C.H., I had a responsibility to visit schools and assess their music programs. It was through my interaction with high school students and learning about the state of schools with little or no arts that I got the bug to teach. Next thing I knew, I got a phone call about a position opening at an independent school in Newton.
I did the interview - got the job.
I prepared for classes and bought some new clothes.
I headed out of my apartment on my 1st day and . . . cried. Like a baby.
I actually cried harder that day than the other times combined. The fear suddenly hit me that not only would I be new in a new place, but there was now the added responsibility of having to capture the attention and imagination of hundreds of children - either making a lasting impression as an inspiration, a bore, or a FAIL in their hearts and minds forever. Obviously I was putting WAY too much pressure on myself. It all turned out well, and now I've been a full-time teacher for more than 15 years.
Yes, tears are natural and healing. Yes, real men cry. And no, it was not the last time.
There was another time I cried on the 1st day of school - the day I dropped my daughter off at her 1st school and had to say goodbye. It's actually making me start to cry right now.
Every parent feels that lump in her/his throat when they see their child growing up. We survive our own career of attending school and now . . .
. . . we have to watch it all happen again. So far as I know though, my daughter hasn't shed a tear. Obviously she gets that from her mother.
Have a great year in 2nd grade, Aimée. Papa loves you! (Sniff, sniff)