Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of School

I hope everyone's pencils are sharpened and their new clothes pressed...because today is back to school day in our area. Although Isaac does not go "back to school" until next week, there is a bit of excitement in the air as this new season begins. This morning on our walk we noticed many school bus, filled with students eager (okay, some are eager and others are just plain depressed that summer has come to an end) to begin a new chapter of their educational career.

Being the slight nerd that I am, I have always loved the first day of school....when I was a student and when I was a teacher. I love the sense of promise that it holds, the idea that one is starting out with a clean slate and a fresh beginning. That fairy tale eventually comes to an end as life reverts back to a normal state and kids/parents/teachers all begin counting down the days until the next school holiday. Oh but the wonder that first day holds, despite the reality of a school year that eventually seems long, new backpacks that become soiled and broken, and vibrant markers that lose their lids and color over time.

One year when I was teaching, a student came into my class on that glorious first day of school and announced, "This is MY year this year. It is going to be great!" A smile was plastered on his face the entire day. Because of the nature of the class I taught (self-contained behavior modification class), I had taught this child for the past two years already. I knew his issues and inside I was quite skeptical over the idea that this particular school year (or any year for that matter) was going to be "his year." I smiled an encouraging smile and agreed that it was indeed his year.

Fast-forward a few months, school is in full-swing, and this little boy is s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g big time. Gone is that hopeful attitude of the first day. In its places resides a feeling of defeat and of failure. This little boy would often journal or draw him emotions in a notebook, which he would share with me at various times. One day I found a page in his notebook with the word "Year" written on it, a large circle around the word and a dark slash going through it. I wrote in the margin, "Tell me about this." to which he replied, "It is not my year."

I then remembered his bold claim on that first day of school, his belief that this school year was gong to be better than those in the past had ever been. Yet time and disappointment had destroyed that belief, leaving behind a distraught boy with little hope for the future of his school year.

I attempted to relight that original fire of optimism, to draw attention to the positive and away from the negative, but it wasn't enough. The little boy struggled for the rest of the year and was never able to find that spunk from the first day of school again.

Neither of my children are school-aged yet (thank goodness! I have shed many tears over those of you posting about Kindergarten experiences!) and we only have preschool on our radar at the time. However, I thought a lot today about how I want to keep that first day enthusiasm alive in Isaac and Evelyn throughout the school year. I (selfishly) want every year to be "their" year. After scrapping the idea of tagging along with them each day to class and doing a series of peppy cheers by their desks (Oh, the therapy that would require), I settled on writing a blessing of encouragement over their schooling. A blessing to be shared each morning before darting off into the world of learning; preschool or elementary school, junior high or college.

"May your day be filled with learning, laughter, friends, and happiness. Be kind to others. Respectful to everyone. Enjoy your time in the classroom. Return home to me, full of knowledge and life."
**Don't think for a moment that I will not call them each morning at college, awakening them from their slumber in their respective dorm rooms, to recite this blessing. We better start saving for the therapy sessions now, huh?


Mommahen said...

I have a 7th grader,a 4th grader, and a 1st grader. So LAST year my baby started kinder and my oldest moved on to middle school. It was a TOUGH year. And beleive it or not I mourned more over sending my little 11 year old to middle school than I did sending my baby to kindergarten (and so did he). And that is even with the fact that my MIDDLE child is the one who's always struggled. But last year he was a shooting star! This year my oldest and my baby were both eager to start. And I too pray that they would enjoy every magical day of their year. Thanks for the great post.

Kelly said...

Love it!