Wednesday, September 5, 2012

32 Starts, and none like this

Each year my colleague announces that it is his 35th, 36th, 37th... opening of school.  He remembers back to his elementary days and recalls the excitement he felt each and every year since.  Like him, I also love going back to school.  The anticipation of the new year bubbles up inside me.

I love back to school shopping. I love the promise of new teachers and new students.  I love the challenge - and the potential - of a clean slate.  I love the possibility of greatness that each first day brings.

It is my 32nd "first day of school," but this one is special.

Tomorrow's the day.  Life will change.  Again.  For the last two years my husband and I have been developing a rhythm, a juggling act of preschool drop off and babysitter coverage.  Tomorrow the rhythm changes.

My kiddos are headed to kindergarten.  I am neither anxious nor excited.  I know the kids will love school.  I know they will be exhausted after 6.5 hours of intense social and academic time away from home.  I know they are a little nervous about what this new place, this new life, will mean for them.   I know that there will be good and bad, and  I am just waiting to catch the new rhythm.

As I do every year, I eagerly anticipated class assignments - this time, however, it was from the other side of the desk.  I quietly stalked the mailbox the day after the town sent the letters.  I quickly tore into them.  I immediately texted my friends to find out what they knew about the teacher.  I entered parent-land, and I learned quickly that class assignments mean a great deal to parents.  The local facebook discussion board lit up with comments like, "Suzi got Smith."  "Did anyone else get Allen?" "Johnny got Williams and Bethany got Jacobs."  

I was struck by the verb the parents used.  Their children "got" something - like a present, perhaps, or perhaps like a virus.  Conversations with friends behind the scenes confirmed what I probably always knew and never really considered while I was teaching high school.  Families hope for certain teachers.  Parents have perceptions of classrooms or of personalities or of standards - or of some thing that will make or break their children's year.    Teachers matter and parents care.  I see that from both sides of the desk now.

My balancing act will shift tomorrow as my children enter a public school classroom.  I have had 28 starts associated with public schools (the other 4 were college starts), but this is my first as a parent.  I wonder what the new rhythm will be.

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