Lancaster CSD

My first day of school

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     It’s my first day of school, and my dad takes me.

     Mom makes sure I’m dressed – new shirt, new pants, new shoes.

     And she makes sure I have the Spiderman book satchel I want. New yellow pencils – the big fat kind. Big fat eraser. Blue jean notebook.

     But Dad’s the one who loads me in our old faded-yellow Volkswagon bug, Mom standing on the back step, waving goodbye.

     We drive to school, and I can see the road pass under the Bug because the floorboard’s rusted out.

     We’d put newspapers down there to keep the cold and wet out, but it’s hot cause the Bug has no air conditioning. I like the breeze from the floorboard.

     Dad holds my hand as we walk up to those big glass doors at Fransico Elementary in Stokes County, NC.

     He holds my hand as we pass big kids I stare up at and little kids like me, holding their parents’ hands, too.

     We walk down a hall that seems like a million miles to me. My dad – a preacher – speaking to about everybody. Me, trying to stay as close to him as possible.

     And finally, we reach my room – Mr. Taylor’s room.

     Looking back, I realize how special it was for me – or any first grader – to have a male first grade teacher.

     Today, only about 16% of elementary teachers are male, and most of those are probably in upper elementary grades. I’m sure there were way fewer males teachers in 1979.

     But I don’t know that when I’m six.

     I look at Mr. Taylor  – a bushy red afro, jeans, sneakers, one of those wild purple, long-collared 70’s shirts – and I’m not so sure about staying here.

     But he kneels, says, “Welcome to first grade, Jonathan.”

     Then tells Dad I’ll be fine and leads me to my seat.

He makes first grade a home

     I don’t know when, but at some point, I probably heard my daddy describe Mr. Taylor as a hippie.

     And looking back, he sure fit that stereotype.

     But to first-grade me, he’s the coolest person, the coolest teacher a first grader could have.

     He’s into letting his students “do” to learn way before “hands-on” is a buzz-word in education.

     We do stuff to learn.

     Grow sweet potato plants to learn about the biology of plants.

     Use blocks, pick-up sticks, bottle caps to learn about counting and adding and subtracting and sorting.

     Work together to build and discover and solve.

     Take on jobs like leading the pledge or leading the line to lunch or collecting workbooks.

     And we’re surrounded by books.

     Books to take us from just looking to reading to understanding.

     And at recess, Mr. Taylor’s on the playground with us – playing chase and ball and roll around in the dirt.

     He makes first grade a second home for me – a place I feel safe and valued and excited about what’s next.

     Mr. Taylor – the teacher my dad describes as a hippie – teaches me to love learning.

     And he shapes my idea of what a great teacher should be.

My wish for you

     Now I’m starting my first year as your superintendent, and my wish for you as you begin this fall – whether you’re a kindergartner or a 12th grader is that you have Mr. Taylors as your teachers.

     Teachers who care about you.

     Who push you to “do” to learn.

     Who make learning so fun you’re excited to come to school every day.

     I’m proud to be back in our district and excited to work with students and parents who understand the power of a good education.

     Excited to work with great teachers and administrators and staff who focus on helping every child succeed, who care about the challenges our students face in school – and outside school.

     Excited to work with business, religious, government and civic leaders who help us make a difference for our children and the future of Lancaster County.

     And I’m determined – determined to give you – our students, teachers and staff – the support and resources you need to make our schools feel like a second home for you.

     I’m looking forward to a great school year.

     I know you are, too.

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My first day of school