How is it that first days of school continue to cause butterflies and excitement in those of us who have been teaching for many, many years? It has been more than twenty-five years for me, yet I continue to experience similar feelings each year, both the night before and the morning of. There are countless picture books about this phenomenon. In fact, there’s a great one titled, “Butterflies on the First Day” by Annie Silvestro that almost all teachers have and bring out to read to their new classes on the first day.
A few days before the start of the new school year, NPR had a segment on All Things Considered with tips on how parents can help their kids, and themselves, through the first day of school. It was geared to families whose children were going back to school for the first time in over a year. While that’s not the case for Renbrook, it’s still an emotional transition, even for a community like ours that had such a successful “in person” experience last year.
It was now almost time for dismissal and as I reflected on day one, I felt relaxed and the butterflies had flown away. I could hear the voices of the Grade One students across the hall and was filled with joy and comfort to be back to school, surrounded by children who are eager to learn and grow. The teachers commented all day about how wonderful their new classes are, and they filled that first day with joyful getting-to-know-you activities and interactive modeling of classroom routines and procedures. I have no doubt the children, and teachers, slept well that night!
So why do I still experience butterflies after all this time? Is it simply because a transition is coming? Is it caused by the unknown? Or might it be similar to the feelings I had as a young child when the winter holidays were approaching? Do you remember those feelings? The best I can describe is a combination of excitement and anticipation felt down to my core. Could it be because I know a special event, one that has left a mark on me in the past, is coming?
Whatever the cause, the butterflies have come and gone now. I have no doubt they will be back a year from now as we begin again. Those picture books will be waiting at the front of classrooms, and there will be more articles with advice for teachers, parents, and kids. In the end, it’s the butterflies that remind me how special school is for all involved. Parents-- who want nothing more than a place to send their children every day that will help support their growth and achievement. Teachers-- who want nothing more than to inspire their students to love learning and be a part of a supportive classroom community. And finally, students-- who simply want to belong, be known, heard, engaged, and cared for. No short order, but absolutely the motivation and purpose of our work.
In the end, I think the butterflies are actually a good thing. They remind me that I care, that this work matters, and that the people in my community matter to me. They let me know it’s time to get to work and welcome a new school year. Here we go…