It is an awe-inspiring thing, watching a new school year begin; happy, exhausting, hopeful, all at the same time. That is, if you can figure out what time it is…more about that at the end.
So now I sit on the first Saturday of the school year, in the quiet. I have made it through the first week of my 16th year of teaching art to 4th, 5th and 6th graders at Travis Elementary. Here are a few things I noticed about this year’s first week of school.
- There is a pleasure in watching students come into the new year, sporting new clothes, packing new school supplies, reacquainting with friends from last year, finding their new classroom, filled with nervous excitement. It is like opening a brand new box of crayons.
- I especially enjoy watching the parents that come into the school with their students during the first week. It brings home what a privilege it is that they hand over their most precious possession, their children, into our care. I saw more than one moist eye during the hand-over of students this year. And more than one sigh of relief from some summer-activity -weary parents too.
- It is amazing the effort teachers put into making their classrooms an inviting place for students. I watched tables and bookshelves moving into new spots, curtains being hung and bright-colored rugs being tried out. One of our new teachers made little crate seats with hand-covered cushions (hand-covered!), a Pinterest exclusive she tells me. All out of their own pockets of course. Flower arrangements arrive to mark the advent of the year. Aspirin bottles open on a more frequent basis.
- Our office staff and Principals and PEIMS coordinator go through an extraordinary birthing of records and files and information exchange with teachers, students and parents. Just like most industries, if you have not done the job, you can not be aware of the avalanche of paperwork involved in a new school year.
- Our school nurse is presented with a bewildering array of medical needs for our children and somehow manages to make time to speak softly and carry a big ice pack.
- Our counselors take on the superhuman job of getting every child’s class schedule organized and in the system while at the same time offering encouragement to overwhelmed or troubled students.
- God Bless the lunch ladies and maintenance staff. They are, in my opinion, the most under-rated group of people in the public education system. There, I’ve said it. Our maintenance staff works incredibly hard to prepare the building for school and once the students arrive to keep it clean and in repair. The lunch ladies bring a smile to their work and feed our students nutritious meals while dealing with government guidelines that simply boggle the mind.
And finally, the students. Here is what I remember all over again each year:
- Kids thrive on routine. They come in with a little marquee running across their foreheads that says “What do you want me to do?” Tell them. Do it the same way every day and they might remember.
- Kids love to laugh. They love to talk. A lot. Be patient. Keep them safe. Nuff said.
- Kids are small people you need to get to know. I learned that one of my students loves Ramen noodles and another loves dragons. I learned that even though I see a brother’s face in a sister, she has a completely different personality. Don’t assume they are the same.
- Kids can be amazingly creative and curious if you push the right button. Try every way you can to get to that button.
- Recess, lunch, and the 3:20 release are still kids favorite times of day.
And oh…about the clocks. I don’t care what you do to them, school clocks never show the same time. Ever. Buy a watch.