My favorite day of the year is the first day of school!!! Hands down! No questions asked! There is no better day during the year! Birthday? Pretty high up there on the list of favorite days...July 4th, which to this history teacher is a big deal, is not far behind, but my favorite day of the year is the first day of school.
On the first day of school, you get your class rosters and you put names to faces, even if you already knew those faces from prior years. Students move up from elementary to middle school. They go into 6th grade, 7th grade, and finally 8th grade, where they are finally in my classroom. Everyone is excited for the first day! Well, sometimes there are those students who hate the first day of school, but ya know. You see some colleagues and teachers you haven't seen all summer, and ask, “What did you do this summer?” You get the first glimpse of what the school year beholds when you meet with your classes for the first time. The students walk into my classroom and they probably think I am a lunatic with the amount of posters and historical flags, bobbleheads, life-size cutouts of Sitting Bull, Sacagawea, Richard Nixon, Andrew Jackson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, 44 president Pez dispensers, books on the shelves -- both serious and ridiculous -- and the random assortment of pictures from students of previous years. I even get excited going over the syllabus! I think to myself, “What are our goals for the school year!?”
I think about the fun times we're going to have learning American history and government. I think about some of my favorite upcoming lessons. I can't wait for the talks about how difficult it was to live down river at Jamestown. I think about when I throw snowballs and tea at the students as we learn the road to the American Revolution. I yearn for our Second Continental Congress re-enactment as 70 students assume the roles of the delegates who attended the meeting and wrote the Declaration of Independence. I’m tickled thinking about the government unit, where we have the discussion of “cruel and unusual punishment” and the rights of American citizens. Obviously, my love for Andrew Jackson and Manifest Destiny challenge me to think about how this year’s lessons could be better than last year’s! I love dressing up! Duh! The kids will meet a Teton Sioux Native American on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, George Washington, a colonial merchant, a Union and Confederate soldier, and Chief Two Socks of the Ngala Sioux. What will their reactions be? I try to visualize what some of the tests and papers will look like. I think about what jokes we'll have in class over the course of the year, granted my jokes are terrible. I picture the presidential projects coming in and what neat facts and pictures will be added this year that are new. I think about the XC, Basketball, and Track & Field seasons. Will we be good? How will the weather be? Which kids will come through at the right time? What kids will take the leadership roles without being asked? How are the kids going to like this play? Will we win it all...again? What school records will fall this year? Who will qualify for State? Nationals??? I think about the field trips! Will the weather be good in DC? I can’t wait to walk through the Museum of American History with the students. Mount Vernon will be a blast! Look kids, that’s Abraham Lincoln sitting up in that chair! Did you see how cool the Capitol was? I hope they love the trip as much as I will. I hope I get to go to Israel...how will this year be?! Which kids will truly appreciate the trip and what will be the highlights for the students. I can’t wait to see the pictures and hear their stories.
Yup, those are some first week thoughts. All of a sudden the first week comes to an end, then August...September and the Simchat Torah service with the whole school! Some kids become Bar/Bat Mizvah’d and we get to celebrate this monumental occasion in their Jewish lives! YAY!....October & XC ends but basketball begins next week!..Wow where has the time gone? ....November…. Thanksgiving!... Midterms… Winter Break & we’re already HALFWAY done with the year?!...Did everyone have a good Winter Break and Chanukah?...January....February and now basketball comes to an end? It felt like we just started! Track season begins now, which is obviously my favorite sport to coach. Who will be the dominant track athlete? ...It's already March?....Washington, DC then Passover Break....April, seriously April?!....This is the end of ALL sports??!!.....Finals…..We’re going on a big trip we’re going to Israel…..the last all-school Kabbalat Shabbat ..Ok kids, time for graduation rehearsal..Walk in, sit down, lead the Pledge & Hatikvah, sit down, get a diploma, walk out, Ok, see you tomorrow at Graduation! Where has the year gone? Why do they have to leave?
Today is my least favorite day of the year, let alone the school year. The last day. I even dread the word: Graduation. The students who I have spent the past year with now graduate. They were sixth graders not too long ago, seventh graders just last year, and it seemed like a second ago they were beginning eighth grade...Now, they leave. I don't get to see them in the halls "next year". We just spent 180 days getting to know each other, learning with each other, laughing with each other, getting frustrated with each other, and loving each other. We’ve become a family. The inside jokes, the laughs, the tears, the sports, the trips, the e-mails, the Tweets, the...everything. We’ve become a kehillah. They are not just students, they are my students. They are my kids. Then, it all of a sudden becomes the time to say the worst word; goodbye… A famous author once said, there’s a reason they call these ceremonies “commencement exercises”. Graduation is not the end, it’s the beginning. Graduation means goodbye for now to the eighth graders, but it is also the beginning of the rest of their lives…
Thank you for a great year Class of 2015 and for the last time...Be Good!
--Mr. Barry :)