Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The First Day of School in a Pandemic

In my lifetime, I have experienced 67 first days of school. For me this has always been a joyous time. When I was a student, it was a chance to renew old acquaintances, meet new people, and start new adventures. As a teacher, I always looked forward to meeting and getting to know new students and learning their names and what made them tick and seeing if the new crop of kids would fall for my old jokes and tricks.  This 68th first day of school will be different, of course. My thoughts are with every child who must navigate this strange new world, every teacher who must find a new way to teach, every administrator trying to make this work without putting children and adults at risk, and every parent trying to do a god job of parenting in this new and unfortunate reality.  

This is a frustrating, maddening time for all, but we owe it to the children to make the best of it we can. We owe it to the children to lead with empathy and understanding. My granddaughter, Schuyler, robbed of a large chunk of her kindergarten year, now faces a first grade like nothing you or I or our children ever faced. I worry for her. I worry for all these kids. It is with Schuyler and all these other children in mind that I offer this poem, written many years ago, in a different time and under different circumstances, that I still think captures some of what it means to entrust your child to a teacher and some of what we must draw on in this time of uncertainty.

The First Day of School
by Russ Walsh

Today, dear teacher, I deliver to you
            my heart, my life, my son.
He’s not perfect:
One day he’s noisy,
Next day he’s careless,
Next day he’s both.
            Treat him kindly;
            Guide his growth.

I assure you, dear teacher,
            you’ll learn his name quickly.
He has his opinions.
He speaks them loudly,
Displays them proudly,
So sure he’s right.
            Respect his feelings:
            Harsh words can bite.

I should warn you dear teacher,
            he has no patience for seatwork.
But he’s not lazy,
Just likes to ponder,
And let his mind wander
In every which way direction.
            Value his thinking;
            Allow reflection.

Today dear teacher, I deliver to you
            my heart, my life, my son.
I ask that you listen.
I ask that you watch.
I ask that you care.
            And give him a hug,
            When I’m not there.

So take good care of the children, take good care of yourself, lead with kindness, and be assured this too shall pass.

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