Ahhh…the first day of school. There is nothing quite like the sight of grumpy kids in brand-new clothes at the breakfast table who probably should have gone to bed an our earlier; the scent of fresh school supplies wafting from the youngsters’ backpacks—Crayola, Elmer’s, and even Paper Mate, just to name a few; the sound of squeaky brakes and hydraulics as the bus pulls up to the curb, lights flashing; the feel of the sweet kiss and hug you give them before waving goodbye, perhaps with a tear in your eye; and the taste…of freedom…if only for a minute to take a few sips of your coffee in peace before making the morning commute. For every family in town, the first day of school is bittersweet. The weeks of buying, planning, making lists and checking them twice are finally coming to an end as the school bell rings in the distance; and while the sound signals the end of the blissful days spent in the sun, it also signals the start of a new opportunity for students, teachers, and parents in a way that is incomparable to any other day.
As students file into their respective schools, a little groggier than most days, they have a bit of anxious anticipation, uncertain of what the new year holds for them. Somehow, on the first day of school even the students who are self-proclaimed school-haters seem to walk with a bit more skip to their steps as they seek out familiar faces in the crowded hallways. They may even throw out a “Hello, Mrs. Marx. How was your summer?” between hugs and handshakes with their peers. As the time ticks closer to the first bell, students glance at schedules and scatter in opposite directions toward the first class of the day. By the end of the day, the sense of dread is starting to kick in as they realize what lies ahead; yet they return the next day, ready to go.
Somehow, parents, on the other hand, muster the strength to get up a little earlier than usual in order to help little Johnny pack his lunch box or to drop off little Suzy at the school. For the youngsters just beginning, parents put on a happy face and walk inside, greeting the teachers and photographing every moment, later to be posted on facebook. And, while they feign tears in their eyes, we all know their inner Seth Green is saying “Cha-ching!” as they make the turn from the classroom, knowing that the long summer days and late nights are finally over, if only for a few (9-10 Cha-ching!) months.
And, those poor teachers…you’ve hated them all summer, sunning and spritzing while you crunch numbers or manage morons, but the joke is on them this week as they scramble to make copies and sprint from meeting to meeting, all in hopes that Day One goes off without a hitch or a glitch or a hiccup. When they walk in the doors to school today they will have dozens (elementary) or hundreds (high school) of names and faces to memorize. The reality soon sets in that every single paper that every single child brings in will be their sole responsibility. Gone are their evenings of family outings; friendly barbecues, and even fitness classes—they know that, until further notice, the social calendar is empty. As you hide your smirk behind a cupped hand, you are now starting to pity them.
And, while it would be simple to state that these three groups are the only ones affected by the new schedule, we all know that everyone and everything in our humble city will be affected by the beginning of school. Most counties have already returned to school: Shelby, Oldham, Hardin, just to neme a few; but JCPS will begin on Monday. Once this happens every highway and side street will be a little busier and you will need to leave a little earlier than usual. Additionally, every morning and evening newscast will cover every minute detail–from bus routes to football schedules, and, even the new Superintendent, Donna Hargens, who will no doubt be under the microscope.
The reality is the new school year means a lot of change for every member of our community and we should tip our hats to those who make it happen: the teachers, busdrivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, administrators, parents, and even to the students. Without these people, our children would not be able to open their minds to new experiences and explore their interests, leading their future careers. Hats off to all of you and may 2011-12 be the best year yet!