This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, which to me seems inadequate to focus on appreciating teachers for only ONE week. It’s like Pastor Appreciation Month in October or Mother’s Day tomorrow. How about we appreciate all these folks ALL YEAR LONG?
Nevertheless, the week’s designation got me thinking about my school days, especially the very first one.
On my first day of school I caught the school bus, with my three older siblings, in front of my father’s veterinary clinic. We were the last kids on, so it was crowded but also a direct route to the school. Some of the “country kids” had been on there an hour already. The bus driver would first go to the campus that housed all the older kids, then he would cross Main Street and drop off the younger children at the Primary School. I remember watching the bus empty at that first stop and wondering what was next. My sister assured me it would be okay. The driver closed the door and drove to my school a block away. I assumed he knew what he was doing but I didn’t make a sound. He stopped on the backside of the school at a long sidewalk. It was just me and him. He opened the door. A few seconds later it was still just me and him. He said “this is where you get out”. Oh! I had assumed but was just waiting for the word! Surprising by today’s protocol, there was NOBODY waiting outside the bus either. The driver told me to go to the building. I hauled my brown satchel filled with Big Chief tablets and #2 pencils to the ominous two-story building and climbed the steps. How I was getting home hadn’t even entered my mind. I had no control of my life at this point!
(This scene was repeated many times in my life in various forms. My parents loved their four kids dearly but they didn’t coddle us. From the first day of school to sports practices to college orientation, we were expected to do things on our own!)
I have absolutely NO recollection of what that first day was like inside the classroom. My best friend from church, Cindy, was in the same class and I sort of knew another boy. The teacher, Mrs. Mae Kubala, had also been my Sunday School teacher so I was comfortable with her. My mother always described her as a mother hen, protecting her chicks.
That afternoon the teachers let 175-200 kids loose in a yard that was basically a square city block with a school building in the middle. There was a jungle gym and some other medieval riding toys. I’m sure there were some rules of who could play where as well as some adult supervision but I’m not really sure. At a magical time, somehow I was supposed to know which line to get in for my bus and the reverse of what had transpired that morning. (As far as I remember the buses didn’t have numbers. You were supposed to recognize the model and perhaps the driver.) A sweet third-grade girl, who I think had been in the same grade with my older brother until she was held back, took pity on me and told me where to put my book satchel to hold my place in line. She would get me on the right bus. Thank God, but where had she been that morning?! The ride home was without incident. My mom told me I would do it all over again the next day AND I WAS THRILLED! I was now a pro at this!
Sometimes I got there by bus, sometimes by catching a ride with an older sibling (if I promised to become invisible when we reached campus). One time in Elementary School, I even pedaled my bicycle the 3 miles because there was a bicycle rodeo that day. But for the most part, going to public school was one of the happiest events in my young life. My middle school principal, Mr. Guy Wilson, was a dear family friend (and my pastor, and my high school Sunday School teacher, and my role model….). Toward the end of a hot Texas summer, he was at our house and asked me if I was ready for school? I enthusiastically answered “YES!” and he remarked I was probably the only child in South Texas to be ready for a return to school. But I loved it; it was an opportunity to be with friends as well as learn new things. Obviously the teachers played a huge role in that attitude and making it a place you wanted to be.
So, in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, THANK YOU to all educators for the job you do!