Monday, August 18, 2014

First Day Jitters!

Across the country many children are heading back to school today. Most likely they tossed and turned throughout the night, but still managed to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. They brushed their teeth, washed their faces, and got dressed without you having to prompt them even once. After all, they've been waiting to wear their new clothes and the hottest athletic shoes for weeks now. Most likely they don't want much if anything for breakfast. And assuredly, they don't want you walking them to the bus stop. Lugging their favorite sports team or Taylor Swift backpacks loaded with sharpened pencils, notebooks, and bagged lunches, off they go! Maybe you shed a tear or two, but chances are you let out a huge sigh of relief and return to a second cup of dark roasted coffee and the newspaper. You don't have to be at work for at least another hour!

The schools have been in frantic preparation for months now. Principals, teachers, cafeteria workers,  and maintenance staff have all been carrying out their specified duties in order to make the first day of the 2014-15 school year run as smoothly as humanly possible. Room assignments went out in June so unless a child is new to the area, students pretty much know where to go and how to get there. As the halls begin to fill up, sounds of laughter and anticipation float through the air. Spirits are high, expectations seem reachable, anything is possible.

Jitters at the start of any school year come with the territory.  I like to think of them as the fuel needed to rev up the educational tanks of each and everyone connected with the learning process. Sure the kids are hyped, but the teachers experience the same type of anxiety as well. Not knowing the capabilities of students that have been entrusted to their care, they must be vigilant from the get-go. A top priority for them is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every child and formulate an individualized plan so each one can grow and excel throughout the year.

In particular, teachers should  be on the look-out for socialization development. The shy kids need help with forming connections with their peers. The class clowns need help realizing they don't have to always be "on" to be liked. And the bullies need to learn that putting somebody else down doesn't elevate their status one bit. Actually these kids suffer from low self-esteem more than any other group and should be the focus of their teachers' understanding and professional expertise.

Principals suffer first day jitters, too. Having to contend with a large number of students is a piece of cake compared to the supervision of both new and seasoned teachers, the concerns and complaints of anxious parents, the execution of smooth-running cafeteria schedules and overseeing the operations of the entire building. At times like these, I'm sure many principals yearn to be back in the classroom.

And finally, the parents. Perhaps your jitters outweigh any of the groups already discussed. Once again you've handed your precious sons and daughters to folks you don't really know. You believe you're doing what's best for your kids, but somewhere inside there's a little voice telling you to be on alert. Listen to that voice, not because the teacher has done anything to merit your distrust, but because it's possible that he or she could. Although the percentage of "bad" teachers is very low and most of these dedicated professionals deserve our deepest respect and admiration, you, the parent, need to be involved with your child's education from the first day of school until the last. Get to know the teacher well. Be in communication with the teacher on a regular basis, support the teacher's efforts towards benefitting your child, and don't be afraid to ask questions when the need arises. By formulating a strong bond with the teacher, your jitters will definitely subside, and the entire school year will be rewarding for everyone!

On your mark, get ready, get set, GO!  This new school years holds the promise of great things to come.
If everybody involved maintains the same enthusiasm they experience on the first day of school, the sky's the limit!  Good luck!