It’s here…FINALLY! The fashion show of new outfits, the chatter on the playground, the hugging of friends reunited — all of these eternal rituals unfold as the clock ticks down to the first bell of the 2017-2018 school year. Students’ anxiety, which hit when the first back to school commercial began airing, subsides as the inevitable envelops them. Parents and guardians balance their relief at the return to the routine with hopes and prayers for a good year. Teachers peer out over the line of new students: an involuntary gut-check informs them about the easy kids vs. the hard ones. Principals walk around the crowd briskly, shaking hands, nodding, listening, and willing their Theories of Action into fruition. The office staff on site, and at the district offices are busy behind the scenes with late registrations, untangling mix-ups, checking on substitutes (yes, especially in large districts, there often are not enough teachers to start the year off). While department administrators and the Superintendent are out in force, showing their support of the school sites. You can always identify them by their suits, ties, high heels, and gracious — if not slightly threatening — air.
And here I am kicking it at home. But even though I spent the morning watering my garden after crunching down a bowl of my homemade granola …I am viscerally remembering it all. My brain replays decades of tapes with such clarity, I think I can actually smell the hair products, the cold sweats, hear the joyful laughter as well as the well rehearsed inspirational “welcome-back” and “looking-ahead” assembly speeches and intercom announcements. After sorting through a treasure trove of old photograph albums, I unearthed the photo of myself taken on my first day of Kindergarten, decked out in my new JC Penny dress and forcing big grin. I recall feeling confident…after all, my mother was a teacher and school hallways, and even the teacher-breakroom were my second home. I was just coming off a few years of preschool and could read, tie my shoes, and speak a little French. No worries, right?! Little did I know that with school integration around the corner, I was embarking into a public school system — that with all the respect due it — was about to become a shit-show.