Tide Turning Against @TeachForAmerica?: Does Popular=Good

I have never been a fan of Teacher for America although I have never questioned Wendy Kopp’s good intentions in creating the concept as a graduate student years ago. It has nothing to do with providing high quality teachers for the long term, however, and unfortunately for reformers like her, longer term solutions are what we need…not short term fixes.

Reflections on the First Day of School

Back to School

Back to School

For the school divisions in my immediate area, today was the first day of school. I know some districts have gone back earlier in August, but around here, today was the day. This morning, I viewed multiple postings from teachers and moms. The teachers were anxious to get to work and meet their new classes and get another school year started. The moms (and dads) were posting photos of their kids headed off to another school year. For some, they were sending their babies off to kindergarten. For others, they were sending their “babies” off to high school.

The one thing that ran through the posts as they piled up over the morning hours was the sense of excitement and anticipation, and it reminded me yet again that ours is a profession where you really do get “do-overs” and you really do get a fresh slate from which to start. That goes for teachers AND students.

The first year I taught, I was so nervous I woke up sick. I mean, literally sick. I was throwing up every five minutes. My mother had to call the principal and report in “sick” for me. I missed the first day of school for the first–and last–time in my life!

That first year of teaching was definitely a learning year for me. I learned about school culture. I learned about tight resources. I learned from colleagues. I even learned from my principal who was probably the weakest of the lot in my 37-years as a public school teacher and librarian.

Each year after that, I met the new school year and especially the first day of school with anticipation and joy. I loved going to the school supplies store and buying stuff for my bulletin boards–yes, with my own money. I loved buying pencils, pens, and things for my desk.

The end of the year has its own special qualities, but there is nothing like starting over with a whole new class and a whole new set of expectations every year. Everything is crisp and white and feels like new at least for the first day.

Of course, sometimes there can be tears of fear and tears of sadness. After a summer of bonding, it can be tough on moms to let their little ones go. And for many teachers who have to leave their own little ones at day care while they come to school to take care of others’ little ones, it can also be a tough adjustment.

I have been retired for two years, but this is actually the 6th first day of school that I have missed since I went to work for the Virginia Education Association. The first year I was with the VEA, I volunteered to spend the first day of school with my colleagues because I was missing going back so much. I missed the first faculty meeting of the year. I missed catching up with friends and colleagues and meeting new people who were joining our staff. I missed getting ready, and I missed the hustle and bustle and energy and excitement of the first buses rolling in and the kids hopping off looking happy and scared all at the same time. I missed walking the little ones to their classrooms. I missed watching the ones who knew where they were going marching off determinedly to start their new year.

There is something special about the first day of school. I miss it. And I wish my friends and colleagues and their students the best year ever.

“Happy New Year.”