First day of school? Probably somewhere in the low three thousands by now, and those are just the days I've been teaching. There are a few thousand more if you include the days I spent on the other side of the fence, being a pupil. Now it feels more like hitting the reset button. Last week, along with the rest of the teachers and staff at my school, I scurried about preparing for this eventuality: the day when the kiddos come tumbling through those doors en masse. We meet on the playground, after we have double and triple checked those class lists just to make certain that we really are going where we thought we were going. Downstairs? Third, fourth and fifth grades. The Kindergarten and first grade rooms are all upstairs. Second grade? Just down the hall. We all know because we have spent the better part of a week, some of us more, making those rooms ready for all the learning that will take place inside.
New paper goes up on the bulletin boards, like leaves falling from the trees, it's a sure sign of autumn coming. The pencils are as sharp as they are ever going to be, and all the name tags are still firmly affixed to the top of every desk. Nothing is tattered or torn. Books without covers have been replaced with shiny new ones in hopes that the new class will handle them with love and respect. These are the wishes of every student and every teacher in the building: love and respect. If we start out the year that way, there's nothing we cannot learn.
I know all this potential will have some big twists and turns in the next nine months. Before this school year is through, there will be tears. There will be disappointments. There will be victories. There will be joy. And Spring Break will take forever to get here.
That's okay, it's pretty much the way it's always been. Sure, we don't have chalk boards anymore, and the computers the kids carry into the school, the ones we make them turn off and put away while we hand them vastly inferior models that don't have nearly as amusing or diverting software, make me wonder how I can teach these whippersnappers anything.
But I'll figure it out. That's part of the reason they give us one hundred eighty days to make it work. By the time we pull this train back into the station in June, we will have seen the world, or a nice slice of it, and we will all be richer for the experience. Every journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step. Today is that step. Bon voyage!