by Jill Greenwood
A while back, there was a commercial from Staples of a father and two kids cruising the aisles with the dad throwing school supplies into the cart willy-nilly all choreographed to the tune of Andy William’s classic holiday tune, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (pretty sure it wasn’t Andy singing it . . . boo). And for me, it truly is. Not because my kids are headed back to school – although they better be since it’s their senior year in college – but because I’m headed back to school. When we chose this theme for August, I called dibs on the first day of school, and I was shocked – SHOCKED – that no one said, “Bitch, we can settle this the old fashioned way,” because I thought everyone felt this way about it and would be fighting tooth and nail to claim it.
Trust me, I resist the urge to scratch that school bug all summer long. I bring home a few professional books with the best intentions of reading them over the summer. But they sit on the dining room table, unloved and dusty, until they make the return trip back to school. School supplies (there are some days I think I became a teacher because I’ve got it real bad for school supplies – Post-It Notes in particular) don’t tempt me in the least. Even seeing the occasional student at Target or the grocery store doesn’t make me think of school one iota. But come August . . . that mental light bulb starts to flicker just a little until I know that the first day of school is just around the corner.
For me, it’s a chance to see old friends that I haven’t since we hugged good-bye and promised that this summer we would keep in touch and get together for lunch at least once. It’s a chance to unearth the supplies that I packed away in my closets for safe keeping. It’s the chance to dust off the “getting to know you” projects that make me delighted to be a teacher. It’s the chance to put some of the ideas that have been bubbling in the back of my crowded mind to practice. But most of all, it’s a chance.
The chance that this year will be better than last year*. That the books I’ve read and/or curated will be well-received by a new crop of students. That I can finally get people on board with the concept that “me” is not a subject nor will it ever be. That teachers who dance horribly are really doing it to get their students’ attention. That I will find that magic bullet for grading essays. That all those drafts will pay off in the final product.
Chance often is equated with luck. But I like another definition better. Chance is “the possibility and probability of anything happening” because each new school year, just like all new ventures, holds the possibility that anything can happen. Will I ever turn kids on to diagramming? Probably not . . . but as long as there’s a chance, it means it’s possible. And, damn it, I’ll take that chance.
So whether you’re putting your kids on the bus or making the school run or beginning your own curriculum or trying to figure out where your child’s interests will take you today, remember that little bit of chance that makes it all possible. That and a good number two pencil. I hear those things are marvelous when you’re trying to write.
Got any first day of school memories to share? Any school supplies that you find yourself oddly drawn to? Let it all out . . . I promise: no detentions.
*Dear In-Coming Students: I had an exceptionally wonderful group of 7th graders last year. But I’m pretty sure that you’ll live up to their memory and then some. I already have high hopes for you. Sincerely, the woman who keeps telling you that you can make it happen.