By far, this has always been my favorite time of the year...BACK TO SCHOOL. The energy and urgency levels raise to the second power as parents and students prepare for a new year of endless possibility.
There are supplies that need to be purchased, like No.2 pencils, Bic pens, a pristine pack of lined paper, fresh erasers, highlighters and roomy backpacks. But the most important item for the beginning of school is that all important, first-day-of-school new outfit. It must be perfect, because it sets the stage for the remainder of your academic future.
The best first-day-of-school outfit that I ever had was for my return to the Concord school system in 1968 as a freshman in high school. The ensemble needed to convey the message that I was confident, friendly, excited, socially connected without being a snob and ready to make my mark on Concord’s history. I realize this is a lot to expect from just one outfit, but it was possible.
Back in the olden days of 1968, girls were required to wear a dress or skirt to school, and boys had to have their shirts tucked in and wear a belt. Sideburns could be no longer than the middle of the ear, and hair could not touch the back of a shirt collar. Girl's skirts could not be any higher than one and a half inches above the knee, and a bare midriff could get a student expelled from school.
After several shopping trips, my mother and I finally found just the right look: a back to school Power Suit. It was a blue and green tartan plaid, pleated skirt, a blue oxford shirt and a green cardigan topped off with the ultimate power statement, penny loafers with dimes inserted. Wearing this outfit would undoubtedly leave the impression that I had every intention of blazing a triumphant trail of academic excellence and trend-setting style.
Upon taking my first steps in the hallowed halls of Concord High, it took about a nanosecond before I was reduced to a puddle of sweating insecurities. The upperclassmen had formed a sort of gauntlet line through which all freshmen must pass.
One guy said “Dimes in penny loafers? Just who do you think you are, Rockefeller? You're such a tool, get real.”
Another shouted, “You're gonna to smother in that wool skirt and sweater.”
Yet another yelled “Look everybody, the poster girl for the Young Republicans.”
Evidently I had not gotten the memo that the best way to survive the first day of school as a freshman was to blend in. There was absolutely no advantage to being unique, at least not until you were a junior. Invisibility was highly valued by underclassmen.
Thank goodness my first impressions of high school did not depend entirely upon the greetings of the juniors and seniors. The teachers were integral in making my negative debut into a positive experience. My ninth-grade teachers were an outstanding group of mentors who not only managed to convey useful information to me, but were also able to instill a sense of curiosity and perseverance that would serve me well to this very day.
Every great human achievement began with a teacher. Einstein had a first grade teacher, as did Mother Theresa, Jonas Salk, Churchill, Steinbeck, and Rogers and Hammerstein. Neil Armstrong not only was the first human on the moon, he also took a first step into a fifth-grade English class. Billy Graham had a gym teacher, Maya Angelou took algebra and Steve Jobs most likely learned to build a bird house in shop.
In my opinion, all great things start with teachers, and that is why I stand in awe of their abilities. Most teachers give much more than they receive, and they prefer it that way. A great teacher influences all future generations. Their work is the fabric of progress, and the promise of humanity.
The next time you begin a sentence by saying “I was just thinking...” thank a teacher for giving you that precious gift.