By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
Preparations begin as parents, students, teachers and the orchestra of school participants fine-tune their instruments. Expectations abound as empty classrooms turn into technological time zones, artistic murals and eras of notable past. There is something magical about the first day of school, a clean slate, an empty notebook; and the anticipation of friendships, adventures and new opportunities surround the doors of elementary, middle and high schools alike. Summer flip flops give way to sneakers, beach towels bow to gym bags and camps take a back seat to campus. School can be the best place a child goes just as easily as it can be worst.
With a fiery red temper, a face full of freckles and an affinity for independence, first days of school were always a memorable event. My parent’s commitment to unusual names never did me any favors. The dreaded roll call was mere torture regardless of the impressive list of degrees attached to the teacher’s name; they were almost guaranteed to butcher mine. Without fail, new consonants, syllables, even gender were certain to arise from the mispronunciation of my homeroom teacher, which in turn would be my beloved nickname for an entire excruciating year. This unavoidable annual character-building event taught me the art of forgiveness and the skill of tolerance. My entire sixth grade year I was known as the Cher-min-nator. Lovely.
Like most children, I survived first days of school and somehow managed to graduate with more personality, less dignity and a plethora of character-building moments. School has always been school. In its simplest of forms it is preparation for a life of trials, tribulations, mundane material and chaos. Occasionally there are teachable moments, but mostly it is about survival. Debates thrive on the differences of the schools of the past versus the schools of today. However, I do believe school hasn’t really changed all that much. Possibly kids and parents have changed, but lockers still squeak, desks are still morbidly uncomfortable, no one is particularly fond of cafeteria casserolen and there is always one teacher who smells like paste. It is practice for just about every possible scenario in life.
Learning early on that some people wake up each morning for no other reason than to spread misery is an important school age realization; although disappointing, it is a fact of life. Mastering the art of mustering interest in the world’s least interesting subject is a gift that keeps on giving. Becoming fluent in excuses, creative in conflict and miraculous in time management are far greater skills than diagraming a sentence. Obtaining the ability to tolerate a mixed bag of peculiar personalities crammed comfortably in a small room is proper training for almost any career.
Of course Algebra is important, if for no other reason than to rule out any profession dealing mainly in numbers just as English lays the foundation for proper form when communicating complaints or addressing a jury. It is an experience all must endure to ensure the growth and stability of the mental health industry, the continued need for Dr. Phil and the survival of the fashion icon—the ever so functional backpack.
Parents don’t forget your own experiences and students no amount of complaining or conveniently acquired aches will relieve you of your time inside the microcosm of society. If a freckled-faced farm girl with a name like Cherimie can survive twelve grueling first days, there is hope. Buckle in and hold on, the year is just beginning.