Thursday, September 01, 2011

The First Day of School

It seems like summer arrived just a short time ago.  It was so slow to get here this year, but already autumn is not too far away.  The first of September always makes me think of beginning of a new school year.  Yesterday the school bus arrived to pick up school children on our block.  It arrives like clockwork, exactly at ten after seven every morning.

As children, sis and I always looked forward to the beginning of a new school year.  Our mother would sew us some new dresses to wear to school and would always pack us a daily lunch in our red, plaid lunch boxes.  Since our community was small, there was no bus service and we would walk the six or eight blocks to school each morning.  Friends who lived along the way would join us and we would arrive at school together, chatting cheerfully as we looked forward to the day.  It was always exciting to have new pencils, erasers, crayons, and notepaper that we organized carefully in our desks.  Textbooks were distributed by our teacher and they were carefully arranged in our desk with our notebook and other supplies.  Seating charts were the standard, even in first grade.  If we got to chew gum, it was only for an hour after lunch because sometimes a teacher thought it would be good for our digestion if we chewed gum after meals.  Otherwise, it was completely taboo!  At recess we enjoyed dodge ball, jump rope, and dare base.  It always seemed like there was someone stronger and faster who played the game, making it somewhat inhibiting for those of us without superior physical skills!  Elementary school passed quickly and graduation from grade eight was a big deal!  We were the class of a year that ended in zero and that was a very cool thing!

High school brought new learning adventures.  The first day was exciting, as it meant not only acquaintances from our old elementary school, but students from another school in town as well.  The melding kids from both schools made up the bulk of the student population with some new students from other places added in for spice!  We went from class to class, and the campus was "open", meaning that we could leave for lunch!  Every day started early with a short walk to school for band and choir practice.  Playing flute and vying with Pam or Fred for first or second chair always kept me on my toes!  From there on, the day sped by.  English, algebra, biology, art, history, and applied arts filled each day.  A required daily assembly with required seating was always grumbled about, but we had to admit that it always was fun to have the entire student body in one room at one time.  After school events seem old-fashioned now, but the beginning of the year ASB Handshake, or the autumn hayride, moonlight hike, and barn party were events no one wanted to miss.  Four years flew quickly by, adventures in study and friendship filling the days.  Our class that year was the largest in school history and those 85 graduates still communicate to this day.

From the tight-knit days of high school, college days seemed large and overwhelming at first.  There was so much to learn that first day of school.  Academic standards were high and classes were large.  The best of the best came from all over the country to attend a university that took pride in its high standards.  More friendships, more books, cramming for tests, enjoying labs, and wishing for fewer required speeches in speech class or a bit more lenience in chemistry was the norm.  Again new friendships were formed and relationships developed.  A career path was chosen and the class of green and orange set out to make their mark on the world.

For some of us, this mark meant starting school again in the fall, but this time as teacher rather than student.  Stomach butterflies and jumpy nerves started the first day of school.  I think it was scarier for teacher's first day than it had ever been as a student.  As middle school students entered the halls of a school that was five times larger than the high school I had attended, emotions were a mix of excitement and fear.  But the 'can do' attitude prevailed and the daily flow of teaching eager students soon took the fear away.  Those were happy days filled with the voices of eager 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who were happy to explore and learn new things.  Each day held new adventures, both in the classroom and in the extracurricular of being drama coach, school dance chaperon, and advisor of student clubs.  After six years of the intense pace of middle school, I followed an eighth grade class and a progressive principal to the high school down the road.  It was again time for another 'first day' of school.  Learning continued as curriculum and programs were developed.  The after school responsibilities continued on a new level, both with student associations and as a team-member of curriculum committees and planning boards.  They were years of intense growth and much joy.

Although the first day of school was experienced in many forms and at many levels over the years, the excitement of the first day never wanes.  The smell of newly waxed floors and chalk on the board mixed with the colorful, new attire of everyone entering school doors on the first day changed little from the time a small  girl entered the school door for the first time in first grade to the last time she passed through her own classroom door as a teacher at a busy public school.  First days of school evoke pleasant memories and happy thoughts all the years through.  Do you know a student who started their first day this week? 


  1. That's such a sweet old graphic at the top of your post. I've been enjoying seeing all the first day of school photos facebook friends are posting of their kids. I still can recall the excitement of the first day of school...
    Enjoyed your thoughts...

  2. What a lovely post. I don't have many memories of school. Certain ones stand out but I don't have a lot of detailed memories of my life. School was just school for me. I probably didn't love it, but didn't mind it either. I remember getting a paddling in the 4th grade. Having detention in 9th grade and hitch hiking home. I wasn't a bad kid, but all of my report cards said I talked too much. I taught kindergarten for 7 years here in Kuwait and loved it, but teaching 2 full classes in a bilingual school became tiring so I substituted for 2 years and now I am in admin at the school my kids attend. Their first day was yesterday - one in 8th and one in 11th. Both seem to be mostly happy with their classes and teachers. Just gotta get my 11th grader to buckle down and get good grades this year. :) Hope you are having a great day. Tammy


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