I was in meetings today. Tomorrow I start teaching my first classes.
I am excited and nervous like I always am.
Who will I meet?
I have a large number of first years this term and that is always particularly interesting. The cool girls still carrying the sheen of high school confidence, the country girls who I will see tomorrow with earrings too big and hair with too many elastics, who next year will all have sleek cuts, hair straightened into elegant lines, and better wardrobes than mine. They will be the quick studies in life. And of course too the boys whose mothers have gone to the bookstore for them, who are here to party and doze in the back row.
These kids are halfway with me - halfway between home and the world. I have to be careful to give them the right stuff, so they are tough enough, smart enough, able enough to take the disappointments, but not so much that the kids I will see tomorrow, the children their parents see when they drop them off, ever disappear.
I want to tell those parents don't be afraid of the wrong things.
Don't be afraid that if they don't get on the grow up, school, job track and stay there, that they will be lost forever. The opposite is in fact true. Any teacher, a teacher like me, would a hundred times rather a new student who has had a year or two or more off before doing, at 22, 24, 26 something they would never have thought of at 18. These students, the gap students, are a pleasure to teach- they can handle themselves, and since they have learned who they are, don't waste school time trying to learn that, instead of the education they paid for.
Have a little faith. They are going to need it in life and right now that's the best thing you can show them.
What I would worry about though are the kids who were too hot in high school. They remind me of what an old fisherman told me about the fishermen he knew in Newfoundland "when there were so many cod all you had to do was sit in a boat and the fish would jump in." Those fisherman fell apart he told me, when the cod went away.
You have to learn how to fish.
I think sometimes of one of those girls, a girl who came into my office and slammed her paper down on my desk. I had given her a D. "I don't think you understand" she said, fluffing her streaked hair out of her eyes, " I am an A."
"That may be true," I told her, " but I don't think you understand, this paper is a D."
Hard lesson to learn, when you thought you were exempt, and none of us are.
For those of you with smaller kids or starting someone to school, you must read this.
Now off to choose my outfit for the first day of school.