Journeys: First Day of School

Today in Georgia, and soon all over the country, children and young adults along with their teachers will be returning to schools for a new academic year.  As a a teacher, I have been back at work for a week now “getting things ready.”  Ready for what?  As I’ve listened to myself, I have realized that I often speak of these early days of the school year as a journey.

These days of teacher preparation are a lot like packing:  need this;  don’t need that; must go buy more of this; where did this come from?  Did I ever use that?  Sometimes we change what (age or subjects) we are teaching, and so, our preparations are like they have never been before.

I also talk about the first day and week of school as “the train leaving the station.”  Later on, I will likely say that “the train is packed and we are full steam ahead, but I’m on board.”  It is these early, intervening days, that I find so challenging.  To get the train moving, to get the journey of the new school year started, the efforts are huge, exhausting and frustrating.  Students must be placed in the right classes.  Then, schedules change.  Reports must be prepared and turned in–of absence, of presence, of proper placement, of special needs noted, of medical information, and more.  I must become acquainted with new students, learn their names, begin to understand their uniqueness and find ways to build trust with them.  I most often finding myself wishing that we could just skip these first few days.

That last wish, which has passed through me several times in the last few days, is the most significant one for me to pay attention to.  The very time and activity on this journey of teaching another year of school to another group of students that I find so difficult is also the time that is so crucial.  Unless I go through these first days doing all this “stuff” there simply will be no journey, no meaningful experience educationally or otherwise with “my kids.”  It’s not just “no pain, no gain,” but it is akin to that.  As students and teachers do all of these necessary not so pleasant things over the next few days, something will shift which is difficult to quantify.  I will know it when it happens, though.  I will know that we are ready and, in fact, already on the journey.  Today, it just doesn’t feel that way, but today is necessary.

Today is always necessary.  It’s just that most of the time, we don’t know what today is helping us prepare for.  Rest assured.  It is exactly the journey of our lives.

Bob Patrick

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