It’s the time of year when we get everyone up early, toast over orange juice, and join the rush of traffic that signals the start of the school year.
Parents and grandparents, teachers and their spouses, crossing guards and those who work at discount office supply stores know that the real New Year starts when school begins. There’s always a sense of renewal as we watch little ones with their colorful backpacks, bouncing along toward the school doors.
Who can forget the excitement of new clothes and new shoes, ready to be worn on the first day? Who can forget the thrill of new crayons, sentinel straight in their boxes? The pencils with sharpened points and full pink erasers? New pens with fresh ink to write in unspoiled spiral notebooks? The cornucopia of supplies at the beginning of the year tells children that school is special, that school is important.
School shows children where and how they fit in the world, and that they must learn to adapt, even though they always have first place in our hearts. School places demands on children – to show up on-time, to wait their turn, to raise their hand to be called upon, to finish their homework. School is the place where children learn the importance of working with others.
School is where children learn not only to cooperate, but also to compete. Is she the smartest in class, in school, in the nation? Will his poster be entered into the contest? Will she make the varsity team? Will he be chosen to perform the solo? It is in school that our children learn the value of their unique skills and talents.
No wonder parents are as nervous and excited as the smallest preschooler. The promise of a new school year is the trust parents have in turning their child over to a teacher’s care. “Here,” parents say, “Take good care of my child. Do what you think is best.”
Parents trust us to be prepared with our lessons. They trust us to be fair. They trust us to be patient with effort, and impatient with excuses. Parents trust us to open the doors that children walk through on their way to becoming adults. They trust us to whisper criticism and shout encouragement.
As the new school year begins, we teachers trust you, too. We trust that you value the important work that we do. We trust you understand that our professional commitment extends well beyond the school day. We trust that you value our partnership in the education of our children.
It is indeed a New Year when school begins. Happy New Year to us all!
Karen Aronowitz is president of the United Teachers of Dade, which represents 38,000 teachers and school support personnel in the Miami-Dade County Public School system.