The new year started without any fireworks. There was no parade. There might have been a party or two, but I wasn't invited. That's good news. That's the way a school year should start. Compared to last year when I was flailing around trying to get my bearings back in a computer lab that was familiar but still brand new to me this seemed, in the words of George Tenet, a "slam dunk."
And while I was standing there on the yard watching students trickle in the front gate for the second day of class, I was caught up in a reflection on my thirteenth year of public education. I have now been employed by that system for the same number of years that I once attended. Last year's Kindergartners are today's first graders. The first graders have moved on to second. And so it goes. Sometimes it feels a little like an escalator.
That's when I looked up and saw a lanky figure striding toward me. I've had this feeling many times before: Who is this approaching me and wasn't he or she much smaller the last time I saw him or her? The answer to my quandary was Gary, and he was once very small. Now he stood in front of me at just about six feet tall, with a trace of a beard poking out beneath his chin. It helped to have his brother Mark moving in his wake. Mark was now a fourth grader. I tried to remember when Gary had roamed the halls of our little school.
"How's it going?" I asked him, offering up my hand.
I got a firm handshake back, "Okay. A little tired."
"How's school?" Considering that some of our students are on their way to finishing their education shortly after middle school, this was a bit of a conversational gambit.
"All right I guess. I'm changing my major." Turns out to have been a good bet.
"Really? What are you thinking of changing to?"
"Social work, something like that. I liked business okay, it just didn't suit me I guess."
Gary and Mark's dad is a minister. This made sense. I told him how proud I was to hear this. "The world has plenty of businessmen. Your neighborhood could use a good social worker."
He smiled. "What about you, Mark? Still want to be a rocket scientist?"
Mark rolled his eyes and sighed. "No. I wanna be a soccer player."
"How about a soccer playing rocket scientist?" I suggested.
Another eye roll. Gary looked around the yard that used to be his playground, shrugged his shoulders and told me that he figured he should be getting home. "I had to get up at three this morning to take my dad to the airport."
The bell was going to ring any minute to start the second day of school. The second of many.