My oldest brother still tells the story of my first day of school. I came home and announced that school was not for me and I would NOT be going back. I remember I hated walking in a line — just didn’t get it at all. More likely, I detested the time wasted waiting for the teacher to herd 28 6-year-olds into a line in order to travel somewhere – the gym, playground, or lunch.
But somewhere along the way I got hooked on school and kept going back. Following college, I found myself in first grade with my very own class. My lines were never as perfect as my first teacher’s were, but we got where we needed to be.
This past fall, after many years in the classroom and a stint in administration, I left the world of school behind to write full-time.
I tried to give up school. I really did. I love the freedom of working from home. When I’m in my office writing, I often watch yellow school buses lumber past my house and feel relief that they aren’t bringing kids to me. But when asked to volunteer with a literacy program at the school where I spent 17 years, I decided to give it a try.
I admit I was conflicted. Would the experience be overly nostalgic in a painful and filled with regret kind of way? Or would it be more like a homecoming? I would soon find out.
During an orientation meeting held in a first grade classroom, I was deluged with memories of the emotions I’d felt as a first-year teacher: enthusiasm, excitement, and eagerness. I drank in the inviting classroom space, comparing it to the first ones I inhabited. Much has changed; much has stayed the same. The manuscript alphabet features the same round happy letters. The pencil shavings and waxy Crayolas smell the same. But marker boards stand in for chalkboards, and less furniture and more floor space rule, allowing kids the space to move around, to flow through work stations — once called learning centers. I felt at home.
In a Life Comes Full Circle way, a young mother with a beaming smile approached me when the meeting broke up. “You were my first grade teacher,” she told me. Speechless for a moment, I finally recovered and learned that though I’d taught her in a different school, she now has a son in first grade at this school — in the class I’d be working with.