Monday, August 20, 2007

It's pivoting day

Here is a simple phrase. I defy you to say that you can read this phrase and not have a visceral reaction.

The first day of school.

That's what it is around here today, the first day of school. I propose that the first day of school is one of the two most significant days of the year - the other being the last day of school. You can make a case for Christmas, or New Years Day, or April 15th, or whatever important day you choose, but these are all short-term impacts. The first day of school marks a true jumping off point. The significance cascades over all of us.

First, there are the kids, loosely grouped into the overjoyed and the morose. The overjoyed love school, either for the learning or the social connection, and they're more than ready to get back into the classroom with their fresh crayons, or to show off their carefully-chosen outfit. The morose include the slow learners, the picked-on, the unpopular. They gird themselves for another nine months of humiliation. Both the overjoyed and the morose are part of the larger group, the over-stimulated, on the first day of school.

Then there are the teachers. They can also be divided into the overjoyed and the morose, with a number of sub-categories such as the tentative, the cynical, the passionate, and so on. They, too, are over-stimulated.

But it's not just students and teachers and families of students and teachers whose lives are changed on the first day of school. The world pivots around the first day of school. Vacation season is over. Morning rush hour traffic gets a makeover. The working-outside-the-home moms and dad pick up that other layer of time pressure that they gladly shed on the last day of school - as if life wasn't challenging enough, now you have lunches to pack, calls from the principal's office in the middle of a big meeting, forgotten gym clothes, and another thousand natural shocks.

There used to be a sense of melancholy around the first day of school, when young nature boys and girls came in from the meadows, put away their fishing poles and baseball mitts and were compelled to wear shoes again. Kids today don't go in much for that Becky Thatcher-Tom Sawyer kind of thing. The start of school means restrictions on your MySpace and PlayStation time, but there's a trade off in getting the coolest new shoes or backpack.

So in these parts we'll pivot today and march off in a familiar direction. There will be a lot of tears shed for a lot of different reasons.


Anonymous said...

My "baby" started kindergarten yesterday, and LOVED it. Such an incredible feeling to have all my kids at a great public school. The coolest thing is how excited all the teachers are -- they are feeling challenged, motivated and excited for a new year. I am feeling very lucky and blessed to have some of the "overjoyed" kids and teachers.

Barry Martin said...

"A great public school" - there's a phrase we don't hear enough. My wife being a public school teacher, we often end up gritting our teeth in social settings when people so often go off on how they have their kids in this or that private or charter school because of how all the public schools are terrible/dangerous/nasty. Our wonderful offspring are products of the public schools and they seem to be fully functional humans...