Life in small town America

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First Days of School

When I started kindergarten, there were no first-day photos like we see today. I did love that my mom walked me to school; met my teacher, Miss Dunbar; and came to get me at noon. Miss Dunbar had a cool bell-like my favorite tv show Ding Dong School, I watched on a black and white television. I loved her brass school bell and told myself that I wanted one someday. No, I did not know I wanted to be a teacher then, but the seed was planted.

Then, there was the first day of school in a new town. It was hard. I was in sixth grade and so mad at my parents because they moved on my twelfth birthday in April and I would have to start in a new school away from all the friends I had ever known. I discovered a box of very old books in the attic of our new house. They were by author Horatio Alger. I read all eleven of them that spring and summer.

Reading became my solace, and I met a friend for life in that spring. Every day we got to go home for lunch. My brother raced ahead and I moped along trying to figure out this new place. Up ahead a girl waited for me and asked if I wanted someone to walk home with. I said yes. I headed home, still moping. On the way back, I met her again. She was actually waiting for me. That was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for 54 years until she died in March of last year. For 29 years, we were able to teach in the same district and I always loved it when I had students from her sixth-grade class come to my high school English class. They were so well prepared.

There was another first day when my parents decided that I would leave private school and go to public school – in November of seventh grade. Once again, no friends! I was very angry and became a recluse by hiding in the library during study hall to read books. I carried home books and read them at night, under the blankets with a flashlight.  My mother helped me by signing me up for Girl Scouts and joining as a leader. In Girl Scouting, I met another lifelong friend, Lorraine. We did so many fun things together and graduated together and later ended up in the same college, both studying to become teachers. Our mothers were also friends, and we are still friends to this day.

After college, those first days of school each of my 44 years were full of anticipation as I was so eager to meet my new students and hone my skills as a teacher helping kids learn to love literature like I did and also teaching them to write well. I never slept through the night and always had the first weeks planned to the hilt every year, even when I taught graduate school. My control-freak personality was always in high gear on those 44 ‘first days,’ definitely an adrenaline rush. Why? Because someone planted a seed on that first day in kindergarten when she rang that brass bell from us to come in from recess.