Thanks for being the one
It was my first day of seventh grade, and I was brand-new to the school district. I was 12 and had not yet discovered personal hygiene, so I arrived like Charlie Brown’s friend, Pigpen. I sat in the only remaining desk on the front row, and as my dust cloud settled around me, I realized that things were different. Kids wore clean clothes. They had pencils and paper. They owned hair brushes.
As rough as my first day of junior high was, however, it was not nearly as bad as my first day in high school, when I ripped out the backside of my jeans during the morning assembly (also in a new district). Despite such rough starts, however, I always survived the first day of school, because there was always at least one adult who made me feel welcomed.
As with most things, a successful first day of school boiled down to the liking of it all. We all wanted to be liked by our classmates and teachers, and we would go great lengths to ensure that happened. Elementary students want to be included. Middle school students want to look like everyone else. High school students want to be respected as individuals. We all remember those stages in life, and we liked school when we were liked. It all seems easy, looking back through our adult kaleidoscopes, but school was both joyous and painful, just like adult life.
The first day is scary for everyone, trust me. Our new teachers were in training last week, and each one of them is experiencing those first-day jitters that they thought faded with childhood. They not only face a new job, they relive their childhood experiences, as well. In fact, the same butterflies swarm the stomachs of every educator, every parent, and every child. Fortunately for everyone, butterflies usually do not hurt us, and the school year quickly sweeps us all up in its vortex of endless activities.
To enjoy school, kids need to know that someone likes them – not only loves them, but likes talking to them, listening to them, and hanging around them. As important as peers can be, adults can be even more important, because we provide the assurance needed to face those days when the butterflies do hurt. Often, it only takes one adult. One adult to reassure. One adult to comfort. One adult to guide. When all else fails, kids just need a face of stability during those coming-of-age storms. Sometimes, it is a teacher. Sometimes, a bus driver or a cook or a custodian. And, sometimes it is the convenience store clerk. You can all be that person for a child. Just imagine if our whole community made children feel that way. Thankfully, our schools are full of such men and women.
So if you are a parent, relax. Your child’s first day will probably not be perfect, but if you are nervous, they will be nervous, which never helps. If you are an educator, relax. It cannot be any worse than my first day as a teacher, when I literally fell backwards out of my chair into the floor. If you are a student, relax, because if a goofy guy like me can survive, anyone can. I attended 15 different schools, so I had a lot of first days. I was always nervous, but without fail, there was always at least one adult who liked me and my dust cloud. Lawton Public Schools is full of such educators.
You chose this profession to make a difference. You chose this profession to welcome all, to serve all, and to love all. But most of all, you chose this profession to be the one for a child.
Thank you for choosing to be educators.
Tom Deighan is the superintendent of Lawton Public Schools. For more of his articles, visit TomDeighan.com