Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy new year!

Forgot that gray day in January. To me, the new year begins when school bells ring, buses roll and kids strap on their new backpacks.

In honor of the school year starting Wednesday, let's take a break from the politics and policies that divide us and offer a salute to fresh starts and high hopes.

What are your most vivid memories of the opening days of school? (Think of it as a challenge, like haiku: Write without mentioning Peter Gorman, student assignment or Teach for America.)

Mine would have to be starting sixth grade at Maple Crest Middle School in Kokomo, Ind. I was leaving a shoebox-size elementary school that had separate entrances for girls and boys. Not only did we walk to school, we walked home for lunch. (Yes, our moms were at home to make us sandwiches, and yes, I'm old as dirt.)

Now I was about to start riding a bus, eating in a cafeteria, changing classes and using a locker. Oh, and we'd moved across town that summer, so none of my old friends would be at my new school.

Standing at the bus stop that first morning, I was scared to the point of queasiness. But I was also as excited as I'd ever been in my 11 years. Even that young, I knew I was ready for something new.

Maybe it was a first step toward a career in journalism, because the pattern has lasted for decades: I still prefer a nerve-jangling challenge to comfortable boredom.

So, how about you? Teachers, I'd love to hear how that first day feels from the other side of the desk.

Footnote no. 1: I'll be sitting out the opening of school this year. No, I'm not taking on a new career challenge. Just taking a brief medical leave, and it turns out surgeons' schedules trump the school calendar.

In my absence, look for schools coverage from Mark Price, who does great work covering nonprofits and charities, and online reporter Steve Lyttle, who consistently writes more stories than three normal people. Please share tips and comments with them -- and -- or with editor Mike Gordon, I expect to be back to reporting and blogging before long.

Footnote no. 2: For those who followed the recent blog discussion of dress-code drama, look for Cristina Bolling's article in Thursday's Style section.


Anonymous said...

Best first day of school memory.

Mrs. (not Ms. or Miss) Stowe, my favorite teacher of all time, outlined the rules and regulations expected in her 6th grade class (back when 6th grade was still in elementary school). Mrs. Stowe had a reputation for being strict. However, after reviewing the usual student behavior one would expect in an organized classroom, she noted that if anyone felt like they were going to throw up that they had permission to leave the room - at anytime - and run to the bathroom without raising their hand first.

Several times she repeated, "RUN, just RUN to the bathroom if you think you're going to throw up. It's OK, I promise you won't get in any trouble. Just RUN as fast as you can!".

Mrs. Stowe also informed me that no question was a stupid question after I apologized for asking one. I think she may have regretted this statement by the end of the school year.

God bless you (or may you rest in peace) Mrs. Stowe!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for that great memory.

Be well and here's to an uneventful recovery and a little down time too. See you soon, we'll be praying for you.

Richard McCormick said...

As a student in rural South Carolina, things were very simple. Mom and Dad goes to work and children go to school. There was no one skipping school and getting into the mayhem that todays students often get caught up into like gangs and such (if so there were very few.

The first day of school gave you a sense of newness, a new beginning that came with the anxiety of what was to come.

The first day of school can be compared to EASTER Sunday because you get to sport your brand new clothes. By the way, some of us worked all summer in the tobacco fields in order to get them.

Much success to everyone in CMS,UCPS,Robeson County,Caroline County(MD),and Dillon District #2(SC). Happy New School Year!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

First day of school memory - being the "new" kid in 7th grade in a different state.

I walked to school and hovered in a corner by myself on part of the baseball field where students waited before the morning school bell rang. I was scared to death (but do remember wearing a really cool pair of platform shoes that were the latest "in").

The Jr. high school I attended was small and almost everyone had been together since kindergarten so, apparently, I stood out. A small group of girls came over and talked to me. One invited me to join the cheerleading team and later taught me the routines I would need to know to try out for the squad. I made the team! Another girl went on to become my best friend ever - I think they call this a BFF now.

Unfortunately, since my father happened to be the new school superintendent, another group of girls decided to threaten to beat me up at recess and on the school bus in addition to going out of their way to harassed me in the hallways but the "nice" girls protected me and eventually the "mean" girls left me alone. The boys at school were always nice to me except one who pulled down my lime green tube top at summer church camp in front of a large group of Jr. high school boys. This boy recently contacted me through Facebook 33 years later to apologize in part because some other classmates decided to question his sexuality. I thought this was the funniest thing in the world while being reassured by this person that he is absolutely straight. Strapless wedding gown or strapless anything else? Not since this incident! And I'm keeping my AABFE - AA Breasts For Ever.

Mike said...

Good luck to you Ann. I hope your medical visit go uneventful for you.

When I started first grade, the state did not offer K, I was in a new town but then again, only a few had been together in church K programs. I was in the school where we would be moving to in a few months. Luckily that school district allowed me to start at the school instead of changing schools mid year.

For my 4th grade year, we had moved again, only a short distance but now we were in a different school system. Luckily now I could walk to school for 4th grade through 8th grade.

In high school, we were combined with our Junior High rival. That was interesting now competing with instead of against rivals.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes for a speeding recovery.

I recently took the last first day of school picture of my oldest son. Just wondering if I'll want to take his picture the first day I drop him off at some frat house. This Bud's for me.

Anonymous said...

Speedy recovery. Or, speeding recovery.

Anonymous said...

Ann, I hope you are feeling better. I do miss your "Your Schools" blog.

So what do you think about Gorman holding on to CMS's share of the "Race to the Top" money?

Oh no, let's not hire back more teachers. I loathe that man!

Anonymous said...

Come back soon! I can't believe it's been more than two hours and the Observer hasn't covered the school closing announcement. You spoiled us.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Please, please, please come back Ann! I do hope you're feeling better.

Anonymous said...

I miss my virtual "friend". I mean, we've got important things to debate here and who else can I b(w)itch too!? Come back soon.

Also, how come jackass is all of a sudden a word that can be printed in the paper? - Leonard Pitts, Tommy Tomlinson, etc..

Elyse Dashew said...

Ann - I hope your medical leave is going smoothly and you're enjoying your down time.

Things are really hopping in the CMS school scene lately - I miss your reporting to help me keep it all straight!

Anonymous said...

Ok Ann, this is not a 'brief' medical leave. We want you back already.

So I will just post what's on my mind until you come back. Thanks for the forum.

...the new principal at Coulwood has less supervisory experience than most APs in CMS. How in the world did she get the job? There appears to be no criteria for educational leadership in this county.

And to glorify her co-habitating lifestyle in front of mixed company. How tasteless!

When will the BOE begin to vet their administrative applicants more stringently?

Anonymous said...

Dear God Almighty,
Our oommunity needed Ann back yesteday - or at least a few weeks ago. Please, help her recover soon. We're counting on you.

Anonymous said...

Dear God Almighty,
Our oommunity needed Ann back yesteday - or at least a few weeks ago. Please, help her recover soon. We're counting on you.

Anonymous said...

Drug sniffing dogs in CMS schools, Ann! Drug sniffing dogs!