Teachers and their students really are not so different from one another. For all of us, any day at school can evoke excitement, trepidation, horror, joy, and all manner of other emotions in between…especially when that day is the first one of a new school year.
As a 40-year veteran teacher eyeing the impending final day of his education career, this writer well remembers his first one.
For students and their teachers alike, the beginning of a new school year is marked and celebrated by the acquisition of new “gear” – fresh backpacks, clean, sparkling unused pencils and pens and paper and notebooks. But the most iconic and best loved new items that students and teachers look forward to each August? New shoes!
And in anticipation of the first day of the first year of his new career, 40 years ago, this teacher was no different. New shoes! I got them, I liked them, and I was proud to wear them into my very first day in my new classroom!
A classroom, I soon learned, overwrought with the anxiety, the angst, the palpable emotions of 30 new sixth graders and their equally frightened newbie teacher.
Stand before them I knew I must, to break the ice and begin to calm their (our) nerves was to be my first accomplishment in what, I told myself, was to be for all of us a long, yet brilliantly successful school year!
I wish I could remember exactly what I said. It was, after all, 40 years ago. But I’m sure I was going for something, “awe-inspiring.”
As I was in full-swing, feeling better-and-better about my professional abilities to handle any classroom challenge, a tiny, scrawny, bird-like little girl rose from her desk and approached me, a quizzical look on her face.
Only minutes into our first day! Only minutes into my new teaching career, I thought, and already I’m making such breakthroughs that my students are being lifted from their seats and are gravitating toward me!
Coming to a halt only inches away from me, the diminutive child opened her mouth.
On my first day of teaching, with what words of confirmation, affirmation, admiration is this child about to regale me, I wondered!
The projectile vomiting spewed in all directions, all about, a vile, putrid cascade, mostly ending in a single pile, in one particularly unfortunate spot.
My new shoes.
Fortunately, as I look back on four decades of a life lived in schools, years spent in an honest, heartfelt effort to be of service and benefit to students and colleagues, I can attest truthfully, thankfully, that all my work days were not as messy as my first.
And when I have completed my last day, as I close one long chapter in order to begin another, when I return home from school for the last time, I hope, when my wife asks me how that final day was for me, I can say…
“Well, Honey, at least nobody threw up on my shoes.”