The First Day of School

I have always loved this time of year. Even when I was a child, the first cool morning of fall would give me a little jolt of adrenaline and a sense of excitement.

September has always meant a new start, a fresh page, a magical chance to start over.

When I was a teacher, I loved going back to school because it was my opportunity to do everything better. Every September for almost 30 years, I’d look back on the year before and think to myself, “Why did I do it THAT way? I’m so much better at this now.”

As a classroom teacher, I loved that first day of school so much. OK, truth to tell, I kind of hated the first day for teachers, with its endless meetings, reams of new mandates, and last minute decisions.

But the first day of having kids in the classroom? My favorite day of the year. I loved so many little things about that first morning with my new group.

I loved the fresh, clean popsicle sticks with the kids names on them, placed carefully in a red cup marked “Attendance”. I loved the jobs chart on my wall, with the list of chores that each child would do for the current week.

By the first day of school, the classroom would have been scrubbed clean by the custodial staff. The floor would be gleaming, the rugs cleaned. My white board would be pristine and the shelves completely free of dust. Plants, pictures, books and supplies would have been arranged carefully to create a welcoming space. My desk would have a picture of my kids and little gifts given by students of the past.

The best part of my classroom, to me, was our “meeting area”, a section at the front of the class where the kids and I would gather every morning to greet each other and plan the day. I had a heavy wooden chair and a pillow for my back, but I often sat on the rugs, elbow to elbow with the kids. Every day, after lunch, I’d read aloud in the meeting area, while the kids sat or lay on the rug. They often snuggled up together, resting a head on a shoulder, or even on a friend’s lap.

I loved their closeness. I loved their innocence.

Our classroom had a science table where groups of kids could look through microscopes, measure and weigh items, grow plants or observe living creatures in tanks. It had a library filled with small squares of carpet and a cozy bean bag chair. There was a big art table with materials for working on whichever art project the school’s fabulous art teacher was integrating into our curriculum that month.

I loved the part of the day when we had “rotations”, with groups of kids moving together from one activity to another. I was able to work with small groups of kids on math or literacy while the rest of the class was reading a book, making art, or maybe doing a science activity.

I loved my classroom. It felt like home, especially when “my kids” were there, gathered around my desk to tell me something funny, or huddled in the back of the room to share some gossip with their friends.

I miss that. I miss the first day of school excitement, and the way that everyone in the room was on their best behavior, me included.

But this year everything is different.

I’m retired now, with no more classroom to set up. But my daughter and so many of my friends are going back this week. Back to a new world of teaching.

This post is for them.

On the first day of school in September of 2020, Covid 19 will have changed everything.

This year there won’t be any carefully labelled popsicle sticks for taking attendance. There won’t be any clusters of desks pushed together to make cooperative groups.

This year teachers won’t be allowed to have their private chairs set up, and kids won’t ever be gathering on the rug. Nobody will be hugging or resting their heads on each other’s shoulders.

This time around, kids won’t be able to easily read their teachers faces, because those faces will be hidden behind masks. They won’t be able to see each other’s smiles.

On the first day of school in 2020, classrooms will still have books, but kids won’t be able to relax on a beanbag chair with a favorite story in hand. There won’t be any cooperative groups or any art area of the room.

Instead, classrooms will have rows of isolated desks, carefully separated. Some schools will have physical barriers, made of cardboard or plexiglass, trying to keep the children in their own space.

I understand how necessary all of this is. I am in awe of the educational professionals, both teachers and administrators, who have spent all summer desperately working to set this all up in the face of constantly shifting facts.

Children are resilient. Children are outrageously courageous and mostly flexible.

But this year is going to start out in a way that is foreign, isolating and sad.

My heart and my hopes go out to everyone heading back to school. I hope you can back to sharing a big box of leggos with your best friends. I look forward to hearing about group projects and book groups.

Mostly, I look forward to the day when morning meetings will be able to happen on the rug, and everyone will be able to sit together to play a class game.

So Are Schools Vital or Not?

Oh, what a funny, funny time to be alive! After more than 6 decades of life, it suddenly seems that everything we thought we knew to be true has morphed into something else.

Up is down, dark is light, medical masks cause disease, scientists are diabolical villains and game show hosts are prophets.

I tell you, it can make a Nonni’s head spin.

Let’s think about public schools, for example.

As the mom of three grown children, I have many fond memories of standing in line at the store to buy pencils, crayons, markers, tissues and hand sanitizer for my kids’ classrooms. I didn’t mind donating to the classes, but I did wonder why our country didn’t value education enough to provide the money for basic supplies.

I was a teacher for about 30 years, too. I’ve lived through many years of budget cuts, layoffs of staff and an inability to update materials. I’ve taught in buildings with no air conditioning, windows that couldn’t be opened and bits of ceiling tile falling on our desks.

I even taught in one building where the sixth grade kids had metal buckets on their desks because hot water was leaking from the ceiling pipes.

A couple of decades ago, I served on my local school committee. In that role, I had the interesting experience of trying to convince government officials that schools were essential places.

Hahaha. That was fun.

The federal government only provides about 10% of the public school budget, but they didn’t want to hear that we needed more support for the many special needs kids in the district. They weren’t convinced when we asked for more staff to support those kids and the teachers struggling to meet their needs. They were busy spending money on new aircraft carriers; they didn’t have time to deal with the problems of little kids.

The state government sounded a little more open. Our committee explained to our governor and state legislature that we hadn’t been able to update our technology in years, and that kids lacked access to the internet. They felt bad, but, gosh, they explained, there’s only so much money to go around. They explained that everyone wanted a piece of the pie, but we couldn’t just come in and ask for a bigger piece.

(Humble brag coming: I told Gov. Mitt Romney that he needed a bigger pie.)

The state clearly didn’t find public education to be much of a priority. They ignored our request for help.

And then there was our local government. To be fair, our town is not wealthy. We are a semi-rural town with very little business to add to our tax base. Our property taxes are pretty high, given the economic status of many of our residents.

But the schools were really struggling while I was on the school committee. We weren’t doing well enough on state tests, we had outdated buildings, old books and too few support staff. We tried to convince the townspeople and the selectboard that we needed more funds.

It didn’t go well.

So you see, I have more than 35 years of experience with public schools. I have had decades to recognize how little respect our country has for them. I’ve spent years hearing, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

I’ve heard that schools are too rigid and that they are too lenient. I’ve heard that teachers are lazy. That the curriculum is “dumbed down” and that classrooms are just “babysitting.” I’ve heard that school push too hard and that they don’t push hard enough.

I’ve had engineers, lawyers, truck drivers and dental assistants tell me what I am doing wrong as a teacher. Everyone around me has always seemed to have the belief that they could handle a public school classroom without cracking a sweat.

So you can imagine how amused I am listening to those same people, from my own friends to Betsy DeVos, as they demand that schools reopen RIGHT ON TIME!!

I just heard a well known Senator lamenting about all of the dangerous things that are happening with schools closed. Did you know that without our teachers being on alert, hordes of kids are being abused at home and nobody knows it? And that kids are suffering from depression and anxiety because they are not able to be in classrooms with their friends and teachers?

I hear government officials at every level saying that public schools keep children safe, and that education is absolutely vital. They are insisting that our kids desperately need the support of the mental health staff and nurses at school. I have heard that without the chance to gather together in one place, children will suffer irretrievable loss.


All of a sudden, public school is the bedrock upon which all of society stands. All of a sudden, teachers are the most essential line of defense between civilization and it’s utter collapse.

I agree.

But it strikes me as both laughable and sad that it took devastating global crisis for this country to recognize the crucial nature of public schools.

I’m thinking about the fact that most schools don’t have enough space to keep kids apart. And about the huge number of schools that have crappy ventilation. About the huge number that lack modern, sanitary bathroom facilities.

Where was all this interest when teachers were begging for new buildings?

I remember all the times I was told that “now isn’t the right time” to update technology. I was once asking for a new router for our High School and an elderly member of the finance committee scolded me. “I got through school without the internet and I did just fine.”

Where was all the demand for updated technology when we asked for it decades ago?

I’m thinking of the times when our schools didn’t have enough money for more counselors. I’m remembering when we had to cut teaching staff because the funding just wasn’t there to keep us all.

Perhaps if this country had valued public education then as much as it does now, we’d be in better shape to safely reopen. Maybe if we had given our children safe, clean, spacious buildings in which to learn, we could manage a socially distanced teaching model now. Maybe if we had continuously updated access to technology for all schools, we’d be able to move easily into a hybrid education model.

If only we had continued to fund the appropriate support staff, our schools could reopen with the ability to screen kids for all of the trauma caused by the pandemic.

If only.

What a strange time to be alive.

How to Handle Disruptive Students


Lesson number one on how to handle your classroom:     Show the kids some respect, connect with them, be a human.  This will earn you some degree of respect which is the only real authority that you will ever have.

Lesson number two:  Understand that you can never make a person do what you want him to do.   Accept the fact that your classroom is not your kingdom. You are not the supreme ruler.  Until you understand that the classroom is a community of people with a shared goal, you will never have control.

Lesson number three: You will be defied.  You will be questioned.  Weren’t you ever an angry adolescent, even for a minute?  The hallmark of adolescence (and in fact of childhood itself) is to test the limits, to question the rules, to challenge authority.  Work with all that passion, for God’s sake. You are a teacher because (theoretically) you want to have a hand in shaping the future. If you wanted to be a tyrant, you probably should have picked another career.

Lesson number four: Keep you eye on your goal.  You are here to teach this material to ALL of those students in front of you. ALL of them.  So if one student is disrupting the lesson, your goal is to return to the teaching. It is not to assert your superiority, your strength, your power over that student.

Final Lesson: If the situation deteriorates, and you simply cannot teach your lesson to ALL of those kids in the room, then remember that your goal is to calm things down.  Your job is to deescalate the confrontation.  If you need help, call for help from an educational expert.  Maybe your principal.  Maybe the school psychologist or counselor.

For the love of god, do NOT call the police just because some little girl defied you in front of the group.

It is not a crime to say ‘no’ to an adult. It is not a crime to be angry. It is not a crime to be an unhappy teenager.  You don’t call the cops to move a girl out of a public school classroom.

And if you do, and if that big, strong, uniformed officer STILL doesn’t have enough authority to control that child, then the school had better take a good long look at itself, and its culture and how well it is reaching its goal of educating all students.


I was a public school teacher for a LONG time. I have taught kids with Oppositional/Defiant Disorder, ADD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Learning Disabilities and unnamed behavioral challenges. I have had kids swear at me, threaten me, throw chairs at me, refuse to write or do math or look at me or leave the room.    Never once, not ever, did it even occur to me that it would the right thing to do to use my superior physical size and strength to overpower that child. Never once have a laid hands on a child in anger.

The video from S. Carolina is absolutely disgusting and truly appalling.  I fault the teacher who has been completely unable to create a respectful environment in his class. I fault the school for its lack of planning for how to respond to a defiant teen. I blame the administrator for calling in a police officer, a person trained in crime control, not in developmental psychology or best educational practice.  And I fault that bully of an officer who let his ego and his biceps bring violence into a classroom.  As a “School Resource Officer”, it was his job to do the absolute opposite, and to prevent just that kind of violence from happening.

And don’t bother telling me that the girl hit him first.  Just don’t even go there.

Have a Happy New Year, Friends!

My old self......

My old self……

Today is the last day of summer vacation for my friends and colleagues in the district where I used to teach.  I know exactly and precisely how they feel.

They feel like today is the longest of days, as each second ticks-ticks-ticks away. They feel like today is the shortest of days, as each hour speeds by.

I’m sure that they are anxious.  I can imagine the thoughts that are racing around in their heads. “Did I label all of the cubbies?”  “Did I copy the classroom scavenger hunts?”  I bet that they are double checking their work bags on and off all day, making sure that the popsicle sticks have been labelled with all of the names. Reorganizing the folders into alphabetical order.

If they are like me, they are also mentally planning what they’ll wear all week, what they will bring for lunch, maybe what easy and quick dinners they can whip up .  If they are like me at all, they are also wishing that the next two days, the days of sitting in endless meetings, would fly by so that they could get to the day when the kids arrive.

I am willing to bet that a lot of them are very sad to see the restful days of summer ending.  My colleagues with children are thinking about the fact that they will miss their time together.  They will look at their sleeping babies just a little bit longer tonight, sighing a bit and thinking forward to the next vacation.

I know that they are all a bit excited, too.  They know that every year is a new start. They have new books this year, new materials to use, new lessons to teach.  They will have some kids who will be a challenge, and some kids who will be a dream. They are determined to do their best for both.

Today is the last day of summer vacation for my friends and former colleagues.  I won’t be with them this time around.  For the first time in 21 years, I won’t be there to swap vacation stories, to hug them hello, to hand out the agendas for the staff meeting.

I won’t be there. But I’ll be thinking of them.  Wishing them all a Happy New Year!

I’ll miss them.

Reinventing Myself. Again.

So I have been retired for all of four days now.

I don’t feel any different.  I still see books about teaching and think, “Oooh, next year…..”

I still watch the weather report, thinking, “I have to get to the beach!  Summer is so short! I have to get to the beach!”

I still feel like a teacher.

I still talk to the young lady at the grocery store register, swapping stories about how wintergreen mints make sparks in your mouth on a dark night.  I still tell her, “I’m a fifth grade teacher!”

I still smile at the kids in the mall, wondering which ones are fifth grade age.

I haven’t yet shed my teacher skin.

But slowly, oh, so very slowly, I am coming to the dawning realization that my summer vacation will not end on August 31st.  I am gradually, painstakingly grasping the concept of Fall as simply another season in an ongoing flow of seasons.  “September” no longer means “Lack of sleep”.  “September” now means more days of glorious sunshine, and maybe some quiet days on those beaches that I love so much.

I remember so clearly when my children were very young.  The summer would speed by in a rush of doctors visits, dental check ups, shopping for new clothes and the occasional day at the beach.  All too soon, I would find myself faced with the sad reality of trying to manage a household of five people with different demanding schedules.  I remember laying out the “first day of school clothes”, setting up the coffee, packing my own work bag and pulling out the crock pot.

I remember looking at Paul and saying, “There goes Swifty”, a reference to the mechanical rabbit that took off in an endless loop to lure the greyhounds at the dog track into a pointless chase.

I remember how much I felt like one of those greyhounds on that last day of summer, about to begin my own never ending race to get myself around the track, knowing that I would never even come close to that pretend rabbit.

I remember it so well.

But now I need to look beyond that race, beyond the idea of life as a series of school years.  September will no longer be my beginning.  June will no longer be my end.

For the first time in so many years, maybe I can begin to see my life as an unfolding road, rather than a circle running around and around in the same narrow track.  Maybe this year I can learn to love the warm golden days of October, and to embrace the coming of winter.

Maybe I can focus on the harvest, instead of the classroom assessments.

Slowly, carefully, hopefully, perhaps I can reinvent myself yet again, and find myself a spectator, rather than a racer on that endless repeating track of school days and holidays and school vacations.  Maybe I can detach myself just a bit from that world, and find myself at home in a slower paced walk along the path that meanders from year to year.

Maybe I will be able to reinvent myself once again.

I hope so.



Dianthus. In bloom.

Some people in this life help us to bloom.  They help us to burst into the best life that we can achieve.

Some people reflect our very best selves.  They show us the beauty that we hold inside of us, even when we are not aware of that beauty.  Even when the doubters have made us question whether that beauty truly exists.

Some people see us as we wish ourselves to be seen.  They shine a light on that hidden self that we all want to highlight.

These people are the “Builders” in our lives.  They see and recognize the hidden strengths that lie within us; they hold those strengths up to the light, so that we become aware of how special they are.

These people, these Builders, allow us to find that hidden jewel that lies within each of us, so that we can use it as the foundation of the very best self that we can create.  We recognize that jewel, that special gift, because those “Builders” have pointed it out for us.  They have celebrated us in ways that we would never have achieved without them.

“Look!”, they cry, “This is YOU!”  They hold up our strength, our humor, our compassion, our love, our honesty.  They force us to recognize the unique part of ourselves that makes us stand out from the crowd.  “This is you”, our Builders say, “This is why I look up to you, why I admire you, why I am so happy to have met you.”

We all need Builders in our lives.

We all need to become Builders for those around us who are struggling to find their own inner light.

I’m writing this tonight to thank my Builders.  My sweet, thoughtful, brave, strong colleagues, who refuse to let me think of myself as a failure.  You are my heroes!

My students, my kids, who surround me every day with trust and love; my wonderful students who show me the truth of myself, for good or ill, and who love me anyway.

Thank you, Builders.

Thank you for stopping me from believing the ghouls.  Thank you for helping me to hold on to what I hope and pray is my real, true, honest-to-goodness teaching self.

Read Aloud

Every day, no matter what else has gone on, I read aloud to my class.

They are fifth graders, growing tall, beginning to mature, just entering the terrible miracle of puberty.

You would think that they’d be too old to have an adult reading them stories, wouldn’t you?

They aren’t.

They love “Read Aloud”.  I love it even more.  In a time when so much of education is focused on gathering data, on scoring rubrics, on force feeding those Common Core State Standards, it is both a relief and a joy to settle into my chair after lunch, a good book in my hands, the children draped on the rug at my feet.

I love to watch them as I read to them; I love to see them as they react to the action.

Sometimes, when the book is familiar, I can glance at the text and then look out at the kids, knowing the words that are coming next.  I can really look at them in those moments, because they do not see me looking.  They are seeing the characters in the book, watching the action unfold.  They are unaware of the classroom around them, or the teacher who is looking at them tenderly as she reads.

I love to read the words, “She narrowed her eyes”, because I see those beautiful children trying it out, narrowing their own bright eyes.  I love to read, “He shook his head”, because so many of them shake theirs.

After lunch on a bright spring day, I love to read aloud to my class.  I see the unconscious smiles on the lips of the girls, watching as they twirl a bit of their hair around a finger.  I love to read aloud as those quickly growing boys sit, so uncharacteristically quiet, their gleaming eyes unseeing, the sweat in their hair drying, a smudge of dirt on their cheeks. I love to come to a moment of action, hearing their indrawn breath, catching the glances they throw at each other.

Most of all, I love to come to the end of a chapter, hearing them groan and complain as I place my bookmark in the pages that I am closing.

I love “Read Aloud”.

I hope that it is never subjected to a rubric, or lost to a misguided desire to teach them to read “at their own level.”


A Day in the Life


It’s pretty hard to be a public school teacher in the US right now.

We are in the middle of administering the annual state tests here in Massachusetts.  You know, the ones that are supposed to assess a fifth grader’s ability to read, but really assess his ability to read ninth grade level materials and then write a pithy, on point analysis in one sitting.

Yep.  Those awesome tests.

The ones that are beginning to count more and more toward our teacher evaluations. The ones that help to decide which schools are successful and which aren’t.

The tests that use words like “spectrometry” and “minutiae” and “chirring cicadas”.   For ten year olds to decipher.

I don’t feel very good about myself during these tests.   You know why?

Because I have to make kids sit still for 5 hours in a row.

Because I have to tell them that I can’t explain what the word means.

Because I have to hope that they will remember to “include evidence from the text” when they compare the article on scientific discoveries in a far distant part of the world to a poem about nature.

I don’t feel good about myself on test days.

This year, I don’t feel particularly good about myself as a teacher at all.  I am aware of my age.  I am acutely aware of my obsolescence.   My outdated pedagogy.   I feel a little bit useless.

I am sad.

At the end of these long, tiring days, when my back aches and my legs feel weak, I walk slowly to my car, wondering if I have done a decent job today.  I think about the kids, so young and fresh, so eager for the energy and life of youth.  I worry.  Am I failing them because I am too old to connect with their lives?  Am I failing them because I don’t know the latest research on reading comprehension?  Am I too cranky? Too worn down?  Is the constant struggle to meet the standards taking away the soul of my classroom?  Do they wake up in the early mornings wishing that they could stay home and avoid me and my lessons?

I don’t know.

I am sad.

Then I get to my classroom, in the early morning light.  I turn on the Smartboard, move the trash barrels into place. I gather yesterday’s worksheets from the “hand in” bin.  I boot up my computer, make a morning message that pokes fun at the testing. “MCAS”, I write. “Mango Chocolate Awesome Sauce”.  I put out the morning work, file corrected work, turn the compost.

I’m still sad.

This isn’t why I became a teacher.  To make children fill in bubble sheets.  To make them “restate the prompt” and “find evidence from the text.”   I am not here because I love data or because I think its a good idea to measure each child’s ability to copy the writing style of a so called “educational expert”.

Still.  I am a professional.  I do what is expected of me.  I greet the kids, make sure that each has a freshly sharpened number 2 pencil.  I remind them to bring in snack, to have a book on hand.  I chat with the nervous ones, hug the tearful ones.  Two are clearly sick; I hand them tissues, remind them that they can get water when they need it.  I run a short, quiet “morning meeting”, then get them all into their seats.  I remind them that I believe in them.  I remind them that we will have some “math fun” when all of this is over.

I hand out the answer booklets.  And the test booklets.  And the erasers and highlighters.  I read the directions. “Cheating in any form is forbidden.  You may not use dictionaries.  Or cell phones.”  I take a breath.  I remind them to “Make a dark mark” and to “erase completely any mark that you wish you change”.

I am sad.

As the kids settle in to take the test, lollipops or Jolly Ranchers arranged in neat rows on their desks, I click on my email.

And I read this, coming from a colleague whose son was in my class a couple of years ago:

Hi there,
I tried to find you this morning to let you know that you will be reviewed by the MCAS scorers this summer.
The 7th grade long comp prompt was:
write about a teacher/coach who has made an impact on your life… son wrote about you:)
He was bragging that he wrote 10 paragraphs…..
Thought this would make your day.
This didn’t make my day, my friend. This made my week. My month.
This made me stand up taller as I walked around my classroom.
This reminded me that sometimes it is enough to love the kids and love my job. That sometimes I am doing a really good job just because I am able to make a connection to a struggling learner who isn’t sure that he has what it takes.
I am no longer sad.
I am so incredibly happy that this wonderful young man remembers me as someone who helped him to grow.
This is why I teach.
Thank you, my friend! You’ve given me the courage to keep it up for a little bit longer!

Shifting dreams

Its funny, how your dreams change and evolve over time.

It seems like it was only a few sunsets ago that I was dreaming and yearning for motherhood.  More than anything, all I wanted from life was to have my own babies to hold and cherish.  My entire focus was on making that dream come true.  Diapers and stuffed bears and powder and blankies. That seemed like “the good life” to me.

And then for a while, my dreams were about having all five of us take a vacation together. Somewhere new and special.  Somewhere that seemed a little adventurous. That would be “the good life”, wouldn’t it? Taking the kids to Europe? Camping in the Canadian maritimes? We did those things, and they were fabulous.  The good life dreams still seemed elusive.

Along the way, “the good life” started to seem like it would be out there when we finally had enough money to relax a bit. Maybe we’d hit that point when the kids were grown up and our salaries had increased some. Maybe it would come when we finally paid off the mortgage.  I started to dream and wish for “new”.  A new couch, a new dishwasher, one of those new fridges with the automatic ice maker.  I still don’t have everything all shiny and new, but I definitely have enough. I have finally reached the point where an unexpected car repair doesn’t lead me to panic.

This morning I woke up in the pitch dark again.  To the sound of pouring, driving rain. Again.  The room was chilly, and damp. Even the dogs were sound asleep. I rolled to my side, pulling the blankets around my neck. “Just five more minutes,” my brain begged. “Just five.”  I didn’t want to get up in darkness again. I didn’t want to gulp down my coffee while checking my email. I didn’t want to drive for an hour through the flooded highways yet again, dragging my weary bones to work.

Retirement.  Ah, yes.  Won’t that be “the good life”?  To sleep through the darkness, and only get up when the sun is high?  To pull on flannel pants, and keep them on for the whole wet day? That’s my new “good life.”  A cold, driving rain, and me inside with the dogs and a blanket and a good book.

I guess its good to have dreams, right? Its good to be looking forward, to embrace the future with joy.  But I am trying to be careful about it at the same time.

Today I will slog through the traffic, endure the wet leaves and dark highway, strive for patience as the whole world tries to get to work at the same time.  I’ll feel my aching back and neck, and wish for my soft flannel pants.

Then I’ll get to my classroom, flip on the lights, feed the fish and get ready to greet the gang of giggling children who will rush in the door to chat with me.

Maybe this is actually “the good life” right now, and I’m right smack in the middle of it.

I love the first day of school.

photoI love the first day of the school year. I do! I love being back in the place where I feel competent and useful.

I love the first day because I get to see all of my friends again.  After a long summer of time to myself, it feels both comforting and empowering to be a part of a team once again.  I get to spend my day with people who are smart, caring, familiar and supportive.  I am a small cog in a fine, efficient machine. I have a place.

I love the first day because last year’s kids are so deliriously happy to see me.  They haven’t yet met and connected with this year’s teacher and class, so they hold onto the memories of our time together.  They greet me with grins, and hugs and a rush of words.  “How was your summer? How are your dogs?  Do you remember when we…..?”   They want to know that I miss them, that I remember them, that they made a lasting impression.

I do, and they did, so the first day is filled with joyful and loving reunions.

I love the first day because I get to meet my new kids.  They come into the classroom with hesitation and hope.  They come with bright eyes and sweaty palms. They want to know one thing, and one thing only: will I be “nice” and will I love them?  They don’t come right out and ask, but their every move tells me that they need that reassurance.

I know myself well enough to know that I am pretty “nice”, and that I will absolutely without-a-doubt love them.  I love watching as the first day unfolds, and they slowly come to realize that they are in a safe place.

I love the first day of school because it is simply and purely a new beginning.  It is a chance to start fresh, to make things right, to undo the mistakes of the past.

I love the first day of school because the bright and beautiful faces before me show me that life is full of hope and the future is ours to grasp.

Happy first day of school to every teacher and student out there.