Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back to School

My nephew on his first day of kindergarten

Remember being a child lying in bed the night before the first day of school? The anticipation and excitement that kept you awake, tossing and turning under the sheets and wondering when it would be time to put on those new clothes and skip to the bus stop carrying your new loose leaf book with the cool pencil case? Perhaps you even had a fresh haircut. Of course, for the youngest children there are photos to be taken and visiting relatives to see you off with a kiss and a hug.

The long lazy days of summer had come to an end. No more playing in the pool or running through the sprinkler with your brothers. No more long stays with the grandparents who spoiled you with ice cream sundaes and miniature golf. Time had slowly passed and now you find yourself staring at the ceiling in a dark room waiting for mom to come wake you.

I could never get to sleep the night before the first day of school but God knows I tried. Some years I would decide to go with it and just stay awake. I tried talking to my twin brother with whom I shared a room but his breathing told me that falling asleep was not an issue for him. I might go downstairs for a drink or look out my bedroom window to where the street lamp was shining on the pavement, what vivid memories I have of doing that.

All is quiet. The world is asleep. Everyone except me. In the darkness I'd glance over at my fancy new red, white and blue polyester button up shirt longing to slip it on. How cool was I going to look? Spiffy and dashing to be sure. (It's funny how time can alter one's perspective.)

The minutes pass, as do the days and the years and the decades. I am no longer a child but the familiar anticipation of the first day of school has stayed with me. Only now instead of being a student and wondering what my teacher will be like, I am a teacher wondering about my students.

I know in some schools teachers are given a class list well before the first day of school. These teachers have their rooms set up with children's names labeled on cubbies and desks. The more enterprising teachers may have sent out welcome letters introducing themselves to the kids and their parents. The really anal dedicated pedagogues may have even made home visits to gain insight into the child's family life and establish a rapport before the child enters school on the first day. But for me this is not the case. I usually get my class list the day before the students arrive and changes continue to be made during the first and second days of school.

There is always that bit of wondering about the dynamic of the classroom, student personalities and interests and where the journey of the new school year will lead. I always have a bit of hesitation with a new class as well. In our school all of the teachers meet the students in the cafeteria for breakfast. We sit with them as they eat and share stories about our summer. Most of my incoming first grade students I know already because I pop into the kindergarten classrooms quite often during the year. But, knowing a child and having them as a student are two vastly different things.

I find myself gravitating towards past students who are jumping all over me vying for my attention while others continue to come over in a steady stream. I can't resist them. Every year I want to gather up last years class and bring them up to the classroom. This is when teaching is tough. The kids grow up and move on. I get attached. Gratefully, there are others who also need to be taught.

Well, I have my new clothes and my hair is freshly cut. The students arrive next Tuesday so on Monday night you know where I will be...staring at the clock, listening to the train whistle in the distance and wondering when my alarm will go off so I can pop out of bed. Until then there is work to be done. This Thursday and Friday is the time for cleaning out and setting up (in addition to endless meetings). I love this part too. As the song from The Sound of Music goes "I must have done something good". Yippee!


laurenbove said...

Hey Gary: thanks for all the love at mindfulthings. Sorry if I got a little jazzed up yesterday. I was just so angry!

I do remember all the first day of school jitters and not being able to sleep one bit.

My wee one is headed for his first day on Thursday. I can't believe it. Now the kindergarten teachers give skads of lists with very specific orders of what to bring to school.

rollup yoga mat (for rest) with one velcro strap,
2 .77 oz glue sticks
1 blue gel washable elmers glue
8 pack traditional colors crayola washable thin markers,
8 pack traditional colors crayola washable thick markers
8 pack traditional colors crayola fat crayons
2 folders with large pockets
1 package baby wipes
1 seasonally appropriate change of clothes
1 oversized T shirt for art smock
1 worksheet to be completed on first day (so why couldn't it be handed out on the first day?)

that's all I can think of right now.

laurenbove said...

Oh yes, more specs....yoga mat no more than 24" high when rolled up. Backpack large enough to fit folders.

Salty Miss Jill said...

Yippeee, indeed! Those wee kiddies must be so excited to see you again. :)Have fun on your first day back...and we want stories.

BTW, that shirt is FABULOUS. I'll bet you got chased around by girls on the playground...

Gary said...

Lauren - You have got quite a list there! Here is the list of things I ask the parents to supply:

 2 folders
 2 boxes of tissues
 1 package of baby wipes
 1 sock
 1 water bottle

However, the backpack large enough to fit folders might be a good addition, although it seems somewhat obvious. I also like the seasonally appropriate change of clothes.

Enjoy the wee one's first day of school. I am sure you will be there with the camera. An exciting time.

Miss Salty - You like that shirt do you? LOL. My fashion sense has gotten a bit tamer in my old age.

I am actually happy to return to teaching again so I have more gist for the blog mill. It is what this site is all about (in theory anyway).

Dan said...

Gary, we're both posting photos of us from our early school days today! How cool is that? :)

You know what always marked the end of summer vacation for me? The damned Jerry Lewis telethon! Man, how I hated that telethon. I knew that school was the next day! I think I even hated Jerry Lewis on account of that! :)

Junk Thief said...

Though school days are far, far behind me I still greet September with anticipation. It's the month of my birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary, a time of renewal and a sense that everyone has come back from relaxation and rest, ready to hunker down to serious business.

Gary, I agree with Jill on that shirt. Heck, I still have some that look like it. I too was big on buttoning the top button until about the sixth grade. Chased by girls? Hey, I'd be the fourth grade boy at the head of the pack after that cutie in stripes. You were a handsome devil back then too!

A group of friends were talking last night about how school supplies have changed to ink cartridges, SD cards, iPhone accessories instead of crayons and safety scissors. Good to see some traditionalists are still out there.

Have a great school year!

Florecita said...

I like the shirt too!!!!!!! you look so cool, look at your face!!!!! a grownup in disguised!!!!! LOL

I got a picture of my with two pony tails, and my pink uniform and my Raggedy Ann lunchpack... and will never forget the eyes of my first teacher, green eyes, lovely eyes that say hello to me, I just remember that her name BrĂ­gida and her eyes and blonde hair!!!!!!

Joy said...

Um. I dreaded the first day of school. Dreaded. It. The idea of being sent off to school with a kiss and a hug while photos were taken... does that really happen??? Really? *sigh*

Oh well. :)

justawriter said...

Cute picture Gary! Yes, I remember being excited, not being able to fall asleep,tossing and turning...memories!The best part of getting ready for the new school year was shopping for school supplies.I really looked forward to that.
Being a teacher, I still experience the first day of school every year.I love my job and my students keep me young! Wonderful post Gary! :) Tina

Reya Mellicker said...

OMG that pic of you is incredible! Beautiful. You were (are) so sweet.

I always hated school and dreaded the first day as much as the last day of any term. I'm a total introvert, so sitting all day long with 25 squirming children (later on with 25 hormonal teenagers) was torture for me, honestly it was. I skipped as much school as I could, working out a deal with my mother so that if I read Shakespeare (or did something educational) she would call in sick for me and I could stay quiet and happy, alone, at home.

School is for extraverts. The whole structure was so wrong for me. But it's GREAT for you!! Happy new school year!

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Oh yes, the first day of school - I have so many memories around that event - both good and bad. In general I think I looked forward to it in many ways - though I LOVE summer, so seeing it end was (is) always a downer!

marxsny said...

Back to school, the end of Summer and Labor Day make me think of the Jerry Lewis Telethon as well. My older brother and I would try to stay up all night to watch it as it was usually the last night we could stay up late before school nights started. I think it had a different impact on me though. It was the first time I can remember being exposed to the reality that there were children in the world less fortunate than myself. Which most likely exereted some influence on the direction my life has taken with regard to such things.

Pod said...

so, the dashing tendancies were there from a young age it seems...?
i hear also that as well as being a dag, you are a self-confessed geek?
can things get any better?

i love the old pic...i should fish one of mine out.....t

Gary said...

Dan - I started this post and uploaded the picture of my younger self and then left it for a bit to go exploring blogs. This is when I came upon your 'vintage' pic and the tale of speech therapy. It made me smile. I love those kinds of stories when adults look back to their youth. Oh, and it is funny that we both had the same issue and then corrected it the same 'wrong' way.

JT - Do you mean all this time I could have had the kids bringing in ink for the printer and memory cards? Thanks buddy, I am off to revise my list! (BTW - I am sure we could have created quite a wonderful world for ourselves on the playground.)

Florecita - You must upload that picture of you, it must be adorable. You know, sometimes I wonder what my students will remember of me when they grow up and my hope for this is always the same. I want them to remember more than anything a feeling that learning/school is an enjoyable ride and that that stays with them. And that I was a funny teacher who made them laugh.

Joy and Reya - Thank you both for reminding me that not everyone experiences school in the same way. You made me realize that as a teacher I need to be sensitive to those who are not digging it. I hope I do this already of course but you provide a timely reminder.

Tina - I do hope that you are going to write about your teaching experienes in Greece. I am very interested in learning how it is different/similiar. The kids do keep us young - but sometimes they remind me that I am perhaps not so young. Especially on my birthday.

J.DZ-S - It is sad to see the summer end, but what would we be if life were a never ending summer? (Happy, well rested...)

Mark - It is amazing how small things can affect how we view things later in life. I love the part of you comment that you didn't write. :)

Hey Pod - Oh yes, things can get better, this is just the tip of the iceberg. LOL.

Please do fish out an old picture of yourself as a podlet. Would love to see it.

And thanks all for loving the shirt. My twin brother had a matching one, natch!

kimy said...

between your site and gary's I'm feeling pressured to find a picture of when I was a wee lass and put it up as a back to school special. enjoyed the post....after my own 'education' I taught for many years (at the 18 yrs of age and up level) and must say I seemed to have had more sleeplessness and jitters before that 'first day' than any as a child. but of course after the first day all was calm in my head... just the old 'fear of the unknown'

nice that you were able to experience your nephew's fds....and capture the moment ;)

kimy said...

whoops meant dan.... hey it's late and I have had 2 glasses of wine

Gary said...

Kimy - LOL. Enjoy the wine! We pass the gauntlet on to you and shall look forward to the back to school special!

After the first day it is always better. Anticipation has kept many of us awake at night.

la bellina mammina said...

GARY!!!! Big kiss to you all the way from Singapore - received the Magic Puff book. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!! (imagine me shouting this all the way from here :-)

And happy back to school!

Mouse said...

Lovely post. How wonderful to have work that enriches and rewards you so much! Teaching is a very noble profession, in my opinion, as one who escaped the Rat Race by a whisker...
BTW I scuttled across via Mouse Medicine

Pod said...

i can hardly conatin myself.....

Dumdad said...

Hmmm, I'm not sure I want to remember my school days!

But, maybe, one day I'll post a photo of me in school uniform (not).

Good luck with the new term.

lettuce said...

ahhh..... what a great post. and comments. I'm relishing the prospect of more school pics of other bloggers.

my sister is only a year older than her - i remember sticking myself to her limpet-like, and being rather lost when, in year 6, i was alone as she had moved up to secondary.

yesterday we drove along most of our old route from home to school (ages 4/5-10). It was so familiar, after all this time. Hard to describe the feelings even in my own head.

My dominant memory of my first ever day at infant school is being sat with a little boy who cried all day.

are you identical twins? he can't, surely, be as dashing as you.

MONA said...

LOL! you look so delightfully cute & I love those large eyes there! :)

Steve said...

That is a GROOVY shirt.

I used to love buying new school supplies, and starting the year with new, fresh, clean notebooks and paper and folders. Which got skanked up by, like, week 2.

Gary said...

La Bellina - I felt a mysterious cosmic kiss landing but had no idea where it came from, happy to know it was from you. I am so happy the book made it safely there and you are very welcome.

I tried to see your blog and it is now private? Did you click a wrong button or do I need to be invited to view now? More mystery.

Mouse - Thanks for scampering over. I'll leave you some cheese next time to make sure you keep coming back. (I love all of these mouse - mice? - references.)

Poddy - Don't contain yourself on my account. What happens when you decontain? The northern lights?

Dumdad - Thanks! (I always feel so insulting when I call you that.)

Letty - First of all, thanks. Secondly, have you heard a song by Wyonna Judd called I Just Drove By? It has the feel of what you describe here, driving by old haunts and having feelings sprout from that experience. I love it. I must admit I am a sucker for many country songs.

Third and final comment, my brother and I are not identical. I spent many years wishing I did look like him though. He was a really cute kid. He is still, I guess, but now I am comfortable in my own skin so that insecurity has died.

Mona - Thanks. I wish I had felt cute back then. :)

Steve - SKANKED UP! I love using skank as an adjective. I didn't know anyone else who grew up outside of Long Island used that term. Unless of course you are from LI. Skank is such a descriptive word my friend. Well done.

la bellina mammina said...

I've just invited you Gary - I couldn't do it before as I had lost your email address!! :-(


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