True confession: I may have entered the field of education for two reasons -- 1) I love the "first day of school feeling" and I get satisfaction out of experiencing it again every year, and 2) I'm addicted to office supplies. If this makes me a less-than-noble educator, or a full-blown nerd (or both)...so be it. A+ for honesty.
First Day of School Feelings
You know what I'm talking about - tradition, ritual, routine. A secular baptism. A new backpack full of possibilities and hope. Jitters that keep you up the night before and cause nervous dreams where you show up to school without a schedule, without a pencil, or in the most severe cases, without a shirt (or skirt). These dreams jolt you out of sleep and force you to check your alarm clock (again) because heaven forbid you are tardy on your first day.
The first day of school is the rawest of first impressions for teacher and students alike. It is crisp bulletin boards and clean desks. It is genuine smiles, summer reunions, and sack lunches. It is books and dreams and above all, it is the most beautiful of beginnings -- life's annual blank sheet of paper.
On Office Supplies
I believe it was a Tom Hank's line to Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" (of course, all credit for the snappy dialogue goes to writer/director Nora Ephron) that captures it best. The line, written in an email exchange between the two, was about presenting Ryan with a "bouquet of newly sharpened pencils" to celebrate fall, the initial stirrings of their online flirtation, and the "back-to-school" season in New York City. That pretty much sums it up...some girls want roses, lilies or wildflowers, but I, much like Ryan's bookworm character, would rather receive newly sharpened pencils any day.
I realize it sounds foolish, but there's something really satisfying about the smell of paper and the feeling you get walking and breathing in the rows of Office Max or Staples. Maybe it's in my blood. My paternal grandparents owned a small, local chain of office supply stores ("Fawcett Office Supply") and as a child they carved out a space for me in the back of the shop where I could sit at an executive sized desk and doodle on legal pads, or twirl around and around in a computer chair, growing dizzy as the rows of paper clips, thumb tacks and Elmer's blurred with each rotation. If I close my eyes, I can still hear my grandfather's fingers drumming away on a typewriter or adding machine, a photocopier and Mr. Coffee whirring in the background. A symphony of order and comfort. Home.
Today was my first day back at work - the start of a new school year (minus the students) for me. Last night I packed a lunch, a new notebook, and a stash of newly sharpened pencils in my messenger bag. I set the alarm, checked it twice, and even had a couple jittery first day dreams. I carpooled to work with a friend, hugged and re-united with co-workers, swapped summer break stories, and wrote dates in a fresh calendar. Today I had butterflies of excitement and possibility swirling in my stomach, and even though it's only late July, I began to smell the crisp, cool potential of the fall.
What if we treated every day, like a "back-to-school" day?