first day of school

Me in our backyard on my first day of kindergarten, 1973. Notice the Virgin Mary statue in the upper left corner.

Meg’s first day of kindergarten, 2001. I don’t know why we had an American flag hanging on our house. We really aren’t that patriotic.

I have always loved the first day of school.  I love the clean backpacks, sharp pencils, new shoes.  Even as a teacher, I got excited about day one, so full of possibility. 

In the classroom, I spent the first day of class asking each of my students the same question:  What did you have for breakfast?  It is amazing what you can learn about a kid from one innocuous question.

In general, kids fell in to one of two categories:  I made my own breakfast versus I had breakfast made for me.  Show me a kid who poured himself a bowl of cereal and spread peanut butter on toast, and I’ll show you a B+ student with a ton of potential.

The student who had wild-mushroom quiche and homemade buttermilk pancakes with strawberry compote will be highly successful, but she will also have a crazy helicopter mother and come October when I accidently use a mild four-letter word during class, that mother is going to fill my inbox with emails outlining her disappointment.

There will be a handful of kids who skipped breakfast.  These kids fall into three categories:  The anorexics, the drug addicts, and the perfectionists who chose mascara application over nutrition.  These are the kids I lose sleep over, the kids I want to wrap in fleece blankets and spoon feed chicken-noodle soup.

The general delinquents will complain all semester, not turn in their homework, and have a long list of adults to blame for their low grades.  These kids walk into class late, still holding the remains of their breakfast:  Snickers bars and diet Coke.  Oddly enough, I have a fondness for the delinquents, his complex sense of humor, her quirky musical tastes.  These kids claim to be misunderstood, and frankly, they often are. 

My own kids are headed off to school tomorrow, full of apprehension and enthusiasm.  I plan to place the jar of peanut butter strategically next to the toaster and pray they tap into their mountains of potential.

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