Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Days and New Beginnings

For 45 of my 55 years--starting with first grade and ending last September--the first day of school has had special meaning for me. It has meant new beginnings, fresh starts, and hope that THIS year would be better than all the ones before.

There is something special about the first day of school. Everyone feels it whether it is parents, teachers, or students. You can feel the excitement in the air as the kids roll off the bus or as parents tentatively walk their children to class. For some students, they are coming to a new school. For most they are meeting a new teacher. They will also be making new friends, some of which will last them a lifetime.

Today as the still new VEA President, for the first time in my 34 year career, I didn’t HAVE to show up for the first day of school...but I did anyway. Toward the middle of last week, I began to feel odd about not having to show up for teacher work week. It felt strange not to have to attend the first faculty meeting or to attend a convocation. I realized it was going to feel even stranger not to have someplace to be that involved kids on this first day back in the metro Richmond area, so I called my former principal and asked if she would be interested in having a volunteer help out with the first day. I knew I could help my replacement get into the routine of helping with van duty, for example, and the principal eagerly accepted my offer of help.

While I went under the guise of helping out, I realized that I needed to go for more selfish reasons. I needed a “kid fix.” I needed to be around that excitement to help me get into the frame of mind that it is, in fact, a new school year filled with challenges and the promise of great things to come.

I arrived at about 8:00 so I missed seeing the school buses. I visited classes, however, and felt the excitement in the air. I traveled from room to room and got a few hugs....gotta go back every once in a while for those hugs.

At the end of the day, I assisted in getting the van riders on their correct vans and tracked down kids who had ridden the bus...but were supposed to ride a van. By the time I left, there were still a handful of students waiting for a ride or being brought back by their bus because no one was at the bus stop. I trust that by now every child has gotten home safely and has many wonderful stories to tell of their first day.

As I get deeper into my presidency, I don’t know if I will feel the same urgency to get a “kid fix,” or if I will continue to feel odd about not going back for the first day of school. What I know for sure is that I needed today to help remind me that my job NOW is to champion those students and teachers that I saw and spoke with and hugged today. My job, like theirs, is full of promise and challenge. And like the students I saw today, I am filled with optimism that it is going to be very good year.