Monday, August 27, 2012

Waiting for the first day of school

I love the first day of school. Always have. When I was a student I was always excited.

As a administrator, I was always amazed.

Most people think that all people who work in education get summers off. But really, it is one of the busiest times of the year.

Administrators work to open new campuses or update older ones,  debate the merits of standardized dress and bell schedules. New staff are hired and trained. Existing staff are trained. Computer systems are updated. Crisis plans re-written.  We make sure we have processes in place to handle every new federal and state regulation.

Sometimes it seemed like we will never be ready in time. I recall years when we were opening new campuses and two days before school started there were still construction fences and port-a-potties in the parking lot.

One of my former superintendents always said, "Rain or shine, those kids are coming on the first day of school, and we will be ready."

He was always right.

There is a sort of standing joke amongst school PR pros that the goal of the first day of school is not to lose a kindergarten student. And I can assure you, if you watch the news tonight, some district out there lost one. Of course they didn't actually lose a student. A student got on the wrong bus, or rode home with a friend when he was supposed to walk. And the student was unaccounted for for about 30 minutes.

It happens to at least one district in the area every year.

And every year, the story you see on the 6 p.m. news on the first day of school is about the lost kindergarten student.

So let me tell you the first day of school stories you won't hear on the news tonight.

Over four million students showed up at one of the 1,265 Texas public school districts this morning.

Hundreds of thousands of parents were late to work this morning because they took the time to walk their students to their classes indicating a promise of involvement in their student's education.

Teachers, who have spent hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket and hundreds of hours of their own time preparing for today, welcomed every student with warm smiles and open arms.

Principals who spent the entire summer carefully orchestrating class lists and master schedules had to completely redo their hard work because parents waited until the first day of school to register their kids. Instead of begrudging those parents, each student was welcomed to their new classes with the same affection as the kids whose parents registered last spring.

Hundreds of thousands of students ate their first hot meal in months. Meals carefully planned and prepared in school cafeterias across the state.

Students who don't speak English were welcomed by teachers who are trained especially to make sure each of these students is successful.

Counselors, administrators, teachers and parents sat in conference rooms for hours crafting individual education plans to ensure the success of students with physical and learning challenges.

Librarians opened students' eyes to the wonders of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Harry Potter.

Senior citizens, business leaders, and community members signed up to mentor and tutor students who might need a little extra help.

Thousands of students started, not only their first day of high school, but the first day of college classes, giving them the opportunity to graduate four years from now with a high school diploma and a college degree or certification.

Fifth-grade students started projects that bring history, science, and math to life.

Custodians made 50 year old campuses look brand new.

Maintenance workers responded to calls about AC units, broken locks, and mosquitoes.

The teachers who we always hear are "teaching to the test" spent their entire day, teaching to their students.

Elementary principals spent half of their day consoling kindergarten students and the other half consoling kindergarten parents.

High school bands prepared for competitions.

Pep rallies were planned. For academics as well as athletics.

High school counselors helped kids plan for college.
So did middle school counselors.
So did kindergarten teachers.

At 9 p.m. tonight, thousands of teachers will just be leaving their classrooms because they want to make sure tomorrow is as special as today.

Across the state today, something amazing happened. Over four million students, representing every ethnicity, religion, country, income level and ability level were excited about learning.

Because parents, teachers, administrators, librarians, child nutrition workers, custodians, and bus drivers told them they could learn. And by learning, they could achieve their dream.

And with that, hundreds of thousands of dreams were born, cultivated, and achieved.

So when you hear about that kindergarten student who got on the wrong bus, take a minute and think about all the stories you didn't hear today.

And be amazed.
2012-2013 is going to be fantastic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waiting for 57 more

I've made a lot of bad decisions in my life.  But today I celebrate the one I got right.  

Today I celebrate the 13th anniversary of the day I promised to share my life with my best friend.

That wast a great day.

This one is even better.

Today there is no white dress.  No veil.  No line of people with presents (although I'm not opposed to that).  No buffet.  No champagne toasts.  Not even a cake.

Instead there is laundry that needs to be put away.  Bills that need to be paid.  Bathrooms that need to be cleaned.  Kids screaming at each other and occasionally at me. There is left over pizza.  Kool-Aide.  Rice Krispy Treats.

But today there is 13 years of laughing at our own private jokes.  13 years of learning new things about each other.  13 years of bringing our two families together to make one. 13 years of arguments.  13 years of apologies.  13 years of forgiveness.  13 years of saying I love you every night.  13 years of saying I love you every morning. 

13 years ago, we promised to love each other through better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  

Over the past 13 years we have learned that while we might like the times when we are better and richer, and healthy, we learn more, love more, and cling to God and each other far more tightly when we are poor and sick. When things are worse, sometimes we are better.

I have learned that when I am impatient, Richie has enough patience for both of us.

When I an weak, Richie is strong enough for both of us.

When I lose faith, he shares his.

When I want to give up, he takes my hand and refuses to let go. 

When I don't like the woman I see in the mirror, he wraps his arms around her and calls her beautiful. 

When I think I can't possibly love him any more, I see him dancing with our daughter, playing tickle monster with our son, or bringing home the groceries I didn't manage to buy.

Our wedding day was perfect.  

But today is better.  Because today I know that we keep the promises we made to each other. Today I know that I will never again be without a best friend, a confidant, a lover, an encourager, or a man who would gladly lay down his life for me. 

And as we celebrate 13 years of life together, I know he still has another 57 years before his contract is up for renegotiation. 

And I can't wait to see what I will know then.