The First Day of School

I can clearly recall the excitement I experienced before my first day of kindergarten. I sang, over and over, a little song that expressed the joy of getting to go to school for real. I honestly do not have many clear memories of much from my early elementary years. They are more like dream-like flashes and glimpses. But the emotions involved with that first day linger. I must like school, because I have chosen to continue to go to school for the rest of my life.

Now some 40 years of first days of school and I am once again at my desk getting ready for the first day of class. Thankfully I have progressed beyond kindergarten. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I don’t sing a happy “winnie-the-Pooh-like” made up song. Maybe I should.

             The first day of school…tiddely pom

I’m sure my kindergarten experience was not unique. That very first day of school is an exciting, though often scary, milestone. Somewhere along the way, however, excitement for the first day of school turns to dread for the return to school. A 2012 Gallup Poll found that almost 8 in 10 elementary students qualify as engaged. By middle school that number drops to six out of 10, and four out of 10 by high school. Something is not right here. Youthful exuberance and joy may wane as we age or become too cool for such expressions, but for too many students, the prospect of starting a new year just brings…nothing.

I no longer sing a happy song. Instead it is anxiety and nerves. As the new school year approaches I have anxiety dreams. You know the ones. I’m at school but can’t find my locker. Or I’m approaching the end of the term and I realize that I have an exam for a class I never attended. When the anxiety is really high, I experience all of that dressed in only tighty-whities. Sorry for that imagery.

A colleague of mine this morning was telling me about her nerves and anxiety teaching a new class. She wisely concluded that if we are nervous about the first day that means we must care. You don’t care about things that are not important. Therefore some anxiety and nervousness is healthy as a teacher. Maybe as a student too. I’d prefer that they sing a happy song on the first day. But I’ll take a healthy amount of anxiety mixed with excitement.

           Brings the world anew…tiddley pom           

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