Juice boxes… lunchboxes… lunchrooms… homerooms… homework… workbook… book bag… duffle bag.
This August is the first time since I was five years old that I am not going through the rituals of the back to school season. First it was twelve years of public school, defined more by the people and events than the books and papers. While I managed to pick up the facts along the way, when the fine line between adjectives and adverbs became clear in my mind or the differences between stalagmites and stalactites attached themselves to my brain aren’t nearly as vivid as the memory of the check Miss Stritzke wrote to me for the Christmas tree stand my dad built for her when I was in the second grade or the dangly skeleton earrings sixth grade teacher extraordinaire Mrs. Reece got for me on her vacation because she saw them and thought of me.
Next came four years of private university. There semesters were nearly the opposite of the years before. I can’t recall a single professor’s name. (Wait. That isn’t entirely true. Professor Shakespeare taught, what else? Shakespeare! But he wasn’t even my teacher for the course. I had some stodgy older lady that possibly based her doctoral research on personal primary source materials- her attendance at the Globe!) Student-teacher relationships slipped away as school became about books and facts and papers. The learning happened, but I was connected more with the books and notes and ideas than the people who fostered them.
After ten semesters in four years (summer terms are neither more lovely nor more temperate than traditional ones)it was time to change the school dynamic one more time. This reincarnation of the theme came with a twist- me being on the other side of the desks, assignments and relationships. It was time to mesh the memories of those teachers that really took the time to connect with individual students and the notebooks I’d compiled during college that were filled with pedagogy.
Eleven times I’ve experienced the sleepless nights leading up to the first day of a new school year. Eleven times I’ve spent hours fretting over new bulletin boards, new class syllabi, and new seating arrangements. Eleven times I’ve heard that first bell of the school year ring, taken a deep breath, plastered on a smile and energetically welcomed a fresh group of students to the school, as my stomach knotted with nerves unseen by students.
I’m sitting on the bench as this new school year begins, but as my team of fellow teachers takes the field, I wish you the best of luck! May your year be filled with consistent forward progress, few turnovers and the successful hail-Mary when needed! GO TEAM, GO!