Another school year starts this week. The school supplies are purchased and packed in different colored backpacks. The uniforms are clean and there are no worn out knees in the crisp blue slacks. The last few days of summer barbecues and swimming have ended and now it's time for books and homework, studying and organized sports.
When I was a new teacher, I didn't fully appreciate the impact I had on the students that walked through my door. More importantly, I didn't understand the world each one of them represented to someone else. It wasn't until I was at my first graduation that I had a glimpse into that. Right before the graduates walked down the aisle, the baby pictures of each student were displayed on the screens in front of the guests. Seeing those 17 and 18 year olds as small children reminded me that I was in charge of someone else's baby. They drove me crazy, and they were aggravating to deal with, but they had parents who loved them. Parents who worked so hard to see them grow up. Parents who knew them when they were young, and cute, and innocent.
My responsibility had been huge, and I don't think I realized it until the year had ended and my students were graduates.
But I have since then.
And having children of my own changed that perspective further. Over the years, as I handed my kids over to their teachers, I silently prayed that the young, just-out-of-college educator, would realize what I was giving them. As the teacher smiled sweetly from the door I wanted to say, "This is my life. Right here. Walking through your door with her backpack and new pencils. It's my world sitting in that seat." I wanted to tell the teacher to protect her. To be a Mama Bear. To keep her away from the mean girls, to encourage her, to help her grow. To be strong.
But there were always 20 other kids in the class, and so many parents dropping off their charges at the same time, that my words would never have really meant anything. So I always just waved and smiled and high-fived the other parents on the way out. Yay school!!
But I silently worried. And I still do.
The first day is a day of trepidation for me. Even after all these years. Because I know that some teachers just don't get it. They are overworked and underpaid and under appreciated and my kid is just one of the pack. A name on a roster.
I also know that's a reality my kids will have to get used to eventually. There will be countless first days in their lives -- at work, at college, in new cities. Countless places where their uniqueness will not be noticed.
I wonder if I'll ever get used to it. I mean, it's just another first day. Like every year.
But even with some of my kids leaving high school, I still find myself praying as they walk out the front door, "This is my life. You have my world. Please take care of her."
It's another first day.