Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School

All summer long, the question for teachers and students is: "When do you go back to school?" There is always the day teachers go back which indicates the official end of summer. This day is a sad day. It's fun to see your friends on staff, hear about summer happenings and get excited about what you will do differently in the classroom.  But I don't miss the meetings.  I could rant and rave. All I'll say is that at last year's district-wide meetings, I vowed I would never attend one again, even if it means getting docked pay. The sky-high blood pressure and pounding headache just weren't worth it.  I'll leave it at that. 

But here is what I do miss about the First Day of School... the REAL First Day of School...when the kids have arrived. This is an AWESOME day.  This is the day teachers have been waiting for. 

I miss the freshman. The tiny freshman. It's funny that this is first on the list of things I'll miss because every other day of the year I generally avoid freshman at all costs. But on this day, they are so wide-eyed and weighed down by their ginormous binders as they cling with white-knuckles to their schedule as though its the blankie they gave up a few nights before.  They ask if I know where Room 135 is.  And I don't know where Room 135 is, but if they tell me what teacher they are looking for I can assure them I will give them GoogleMap accurate directions to the classroom.  I send them on their way, having heard nothing I've said, and watch as they ask the next teacher down the hall if they know where Room 135 is. Oh, the tiny freshman. 


I miss the seniors.  I miss how they enter the school with confidence but still wanting to earn the respect of the underclassmen.  It's amazing to think that 3 years before they were the tiny freshman. It's crazy what 3 years does.  But not as crazy as what changes in the 3 months since I saw them last. They are taller, with longer hair, tanner skin and many times, new friends. It's amazing what the summer does.  This year, especially, I'll miss the seniors as I've gotten to know an incredible group of senior girls through Young Life. One of the only regrets of not returning for the 2013-14 school year is that I won't be able to do life with Katie, Kenna, Kenzie, Claire, Elle, Emily, Morgan and Megan. 


I miss the shiny floors and lockers. Martin and Company always work so hard to get the halls of EVHS gleaming for the first day of school.  I love the cleanness of it all but it always makes me sad to think that as soon as the kids arrive, it will be back to normal. 


I miss the fresh start. How many people get a fresh start in their careers every year? That is one thing I love about teaching. No matter the reputation or the mistakes made in the past, there is always an opportunity for a clean slate. And it's the same for both teachers and students.  I just hope it's not like those shiny, fresh floors that are back to normal after 2 hours of school. 

I miss Back-to-School shopping. Ask my mom.  I couldn't wait for the day that the District 150 school supplies list arrived in the mail so that we could go to the School House for our mini Kleenex boxes.  And then the day came when I HAD to have the Trapper Keeper or Five Star First Gear binder from Office Max.  But my efforts to get a new pair of shoes by convincing my mom that my shoes weren't the "non-marking soles" that the school supplies list required always seemed to fail. So you can imagine my joy when I found out that one of the major responsibilities of the Department Head was to buy supplies for the rest if the department.  Yes, please!  A red stapler for Cross. Legal pads for Vogel.  And post-it notes for Kirk...NOT HOT PINK!

I miss planning the first day of school.  I always attempted to make it inspirational.  Like, "Dead Poets Society" inspirational.   So a few years ago I started teaching an American agovernment class in the auditorium. The first year I had 120 kids, then 80, then in the 50's... which is probably closer to the size it should be.  The goal was to give kids from our little school exposure to what a college lecture setting might be like... thinking that would help the transition to college a little more.  Having a captive audience on day one, I was trying to figure out how to get their attention, inspire them, and let them know that this was going to be a good class.  I gave a welcome of sorts, then played JFK's Inauguration speech.  I asked if they heard it.  "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."  I talked about a fresh start, setting yourself apart, and setting goals. And just before the bell rang I said this: "If JFK doesn't hit you, maybe this will. If you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?" The bell rings and 50 high school seniors are nodding their heads to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and whispering to one another... "Did our teacher just quote Eminem?"  Yes she did kids, yes she did. 

I miss teaching kids how to shake hands. This is another lesson on Day 1. I tell kids that one of the best ways to make a good first impression is to have a good handshake. We talk about what a good handshake looks like: firm... go "web to web"... no dead fish, make eye contact and about two "pumps". Then, when kids realize that I'm going to shake their hands, you should see them rub their sweaty little palms on their pants. And then see their smiles as I commend them on their nice hand shakes. And then, I learned from Roberto (Class of 2008) the next lesson.  "Miss! You just shook my hand after you shook everyone else's hand in the class!  Don't you have some hand sanitizer??"  The germ-a-phobe in me instantly connected with Roberto. My liter size bottle of hand sanitizer is a quarter empty after Handshaking 101. 

I miss greetings from kids in the hallway.  I let them know that I expect them to acknowledge my existence if they seem me in the hallway...instead of avoiding eye contact, staring at the wall or fake texting.  I explain it shows that they have confidence and maturity.  I have seen students instantly morph into more confident human beings in the hallway by this one simple act and I love it!

I miss discovering the kid in class who is not what you expected. Teaching seniors has its pros and cons.  One of the biggest cons is that I don't know 75% of the student body... until they become seniors. And then I know 100% of the senior class as I'm the only government teacher. So I've watched these kids in the hallway for 3 years.  I've said many times, I wish I could walk down the hallway during passing period with my hands over my ears, eyes ... and sometimes nose. A lot what happens in the hallway you just don't want to know. That is all I know of these kids before they enter my classroom. But after I get to know them for an hour, a week, or a semester, I genuinely really like them.  I love how kids will surprise you if you give them a chance. 

I miss walking down the hallway to my friend Gretchen's room.  On day one I always look to see if Gretchen and Kelly and I all have the same lunch, just like the kids. We often work through our lunches but usually catch each other for a few minutes to catch up on whatever we missed out in carpool.  Which reminds me... 

I miss carpool.  The carpool has transformed much in my 7 years since joining it but one thing always remained the same. Gretchen. Some of the best prosfessional development happened in the 46 mile round trip from Edwards to Gypsum.  We absolutely solved most of the world's problems, not to mention our own. And we shared in each other's accomplishments and challenges. I can tell you exactly where we were rounding the bend on the west side of Wolcott when Kelly told us she and Matt were pregnant with Owen.  I recall just pulling out of the school parking lot onto Valley Road when Gretchen told me she was chosen to be a master teacher.  And the tradition in the carpool was to cue Alice Cooper's "School's Out" on the last day of school just as we roll out of town with the windows down.  And although it wasn't carpool, I can tell you exactly where I was between Copper and Frisco, leaving the valley this summer, when Gretchen told me, "Weaves, I've got a bomb to drop.  I'm pregnant!"  I can't believe I'm missing this time in life for Gretchen and Eric. I attempted to make a 24-hour stop over in Vail to meet the little one in January but don't think it's gonna work out.  Sad. But I'm more than excited for them!  

I miss the first few weeks of school, when I try to keep having all the fun of summer AND work full time at the same time. And then I discover that the pace can't continue.  But its fun while it lasts. 

I miss the Pep Fest during the first week of school. The energy is amazing. Students and staff are pumped. Opportunities abound.  And our Principal Doan always seems to have something no his sleeve.  You know it's going to be a good year. 

But I'm not there to experience all the things I'll miss about the 2013-14 school year. And it leaves me wondering if I'll ever experience those things again... 

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