The First Day of School is Exciting, Frightening and a Memory Forever

25 Aug
The 74th Street side of Robert Fulton Elementary School.

The 74th Street side of Robert Fulton Elementary School.

Last week, as I sat on my front stoop waiting for my walking partner, I watched as parents and children walked to school. The start of a new school year always has Moms and Dads walking with their children pass my home to the elementary school two blocks away. I love the first day of school. The children and parents are so excited. Perhaps for different reasons, but excited together. Dads stay home from work for an extra hour or so to be part of the first day rituals. Some moms cry, especially when their first or last child starts kindergarten. It is a glorious day. And this year the weather was perfect!

Whenever I see the start of a new year, I flash back to my older brother’s first day of kindergarten. I cannot help it. It was so traumatic for us all. My Mom had given birth to my younger sister on September 2. My brother and I were in the Catskills while this happened, and then we came back to North Bergen. I think my brother missed the first few days of school as we were with my grandparents.

In any case, he was only four; we had spent about a month away from our Mom; there was a new baby in the house; and now he had to go to kindergarten at Horace Mann Elementary. That first day my parents and I went with him. I still remember his screaming, “Please don’t leave me! I promise to be good! Come back!”

He was at the door of the classroom pounding, trying to get to my Mom, who was hysterical crying. All those hormones and my scared brother made for a very unhappy Mom.   My brother thought that they were trading him in because they had a new baby. It took a while for him to realize he would be coming home every day.

In fact for two weeks, Doris, a childhood friend of my Mom’s, came each morning to our home on Third Avenue to pick my brother up and take him to school with her daughter. And I mean pick him up. At first he fought so much she would carry him screaming out of the house. I never wanted to go to school if it was that bad.

Two years later it was my turn to start kindergarten. I was petrified. But a few days before school started my brother came over to me and whispered in my ear, “School is really not that bad,” he said. “You will be okay.”   And so I went to school without any screaming!

By the time my sister started kindergarten, she was more than ready. I had been playing school with her for years. She was the student and I was the teacher. She would read and write better than most first grade students. I thought I was a great sister because I got her prepared. Although she might tell you that I was a very mean teacher. But I disagree.

I spent my entire school career in one school district, North Bergen, New Jersey. I did change elementary schools when we moved across town. Some teachers I never forgot. I was in Mrs. Wall’s third grade class when President Kennedy was assassinated.   I will never forget that November day or the look on Mrs. Wall’s face when another teacher came in to tell her.

I went from Horace Mann to Robert Fulton in fourth grade. We would be moving in October, but my parents had us start the new school year at Robert Fulton. It seemed like a giant change at the time. I missed my friends. (Our schools went from kindergarten to eighth grade; then a separate high school.) But we were not so far away that I could not visit with them. And once I got to high school, we were reunited.

Most people stayed in one place then. But now it is so different. Families move around much more. Children start in new schools more often now. So the first day of school is a bit more stressful. New home, new city, new school, these can all stress a family and a child

My two children had easy starts to kindergarten. Their elementary school was in the same building as their preschool. So it was just a change in the building’s entrance. By the time my son started kindergarten, I was teaching in the same school, which made his transition even easier. We sometimes saw each other during the day.

Because I still work at a school, the beginning of the school year impacts me. I work throughout the summer on a limited basis. But the week or so before school starts everything amps up. This year my office moved, I got a new computer, so I had lots of changes as well. I felt the excitement I always feel when school starts, with a little extra because of my own changes.

My daughter is now done with school, so she is not impacted by this cycle. However, my son is still in college. I recently helped him move into a new apartment with a friend. He is back in classes now after a summer of just working at his fast food job. And his school cycle continues.

Besides helping my son, I also try to help others. For many the expenses of a new school year are daunting. I volunteered to help for our local National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Kansas City Section’s ‘Back to School Store.’ We provided school supplies and back to school clothing for over two hundred elementary school children. The names were provided to us from outside agencies that knew of children in need. It was a wonderful experience buying school supplies, sorting clothing and then helping children pick out the perfect supplies and clothing.

To be honest, when I helped sort the clothes the week before the event, I saw these bright pink jeans that I thought were a bit too bright. But the little nine-year old girl, I took through the ‘store,’ was in heaven when she saw them. And when they fit, Wow.  She told me that the entire event was like “a wonderful dream.”   It made my day!

It is such a magic time: students going to elementary school, high school and college. So many of my friends were taking their older children to away to college. Many were taking either their oldest or youngest to college for the first time. Others were taking their children for their senior year or graduate school. These children are ready to start a new adventure without the constant presence of their parents.

As the new school year starts, I think it is normal to glance backwards to our own time in school, our children’s time, while at the same time looking to the future. Another year of school impacts us all. I hope, in Kansas, and throughout the nation that spending for schools and children improves this year. And that everyone has a wonderful year free from bullying, able to learn with teachers who care.

And I hope that parents remember, the first day of school is exciting, frightening and a memory forever.

2 Responses to “The First Day of School is Exciting, Frightening and a Memory Forever”

  1. Sherry October 19, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    Wonderful!! September, school, English, math and reading!! Exciting!! Thank you.

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