New School Year: A Chance for Us to be Even Better
By Dr. Aaron Spence, Moore County Schools Superintendent
Special to The Pilot
“It’s Toughskins time!”
My father’s cheerful proclamation over the phone a few weeks ago could mean only one thing: It was time for students to go back to school.
My earliest memories of school involve an annual tradition for our family — the trip to Sears for my brothers’ and my yearly purchase of Toughskins jeans, followed by a trip to the Woolworth’s for school supplies.
For those too young to remember, Toughskins were jeans marketed for schoolchildren because of their durability. A family of modest means, we aimed to wear ours all year long, and when summer came, we would cut them off and wear them until the start of the next school year.
So when Dad would yell out across the yard in the late summer, “It’s Toughskins time!” we knew our vacation had come to an end, and our thoughts turned toward another school year.
I have other fond memories of the first day of school. I remember the smell of new textbooks, for example. I loved that smell. I loved opening a new three-ring binder and putting fresh, clean writing paper inside.
I thought it especially great when Trapper Keepers came out. These were the Cadillac of three-ring binders and could hold all your paper, your schoolwork and a few pencils to boot.
The nice part about the first day of school was how organized and new everything was. It didn’t take long for papers to fall out and pencils to break, but on that first day of school I was a prepared student, with a whole world of learning in front of me! I also loved finding out who was in my class. It was always good to make new friends, but finding out an old friend was in the same class was the best!
Perhaps most exciting, though, was the anticipation of meeting my new teacher. I loved school, so I was always excited to learn about my new teacher; I usually knew within a few hours if she was the kind of teacher who embraced a joyfully noisy classroom or the kind who needed her students to be calm.
The latter was never a good teacher for someone like me to get, but I had patient and understanding parents, and I made it through school feeling well-loved and supported.
Times change, of course. Did you know you can now get Toughskins Polo Shirts and Girls’ Lace Pocket Shorts?
Eventually, I became a teacher in my own right, and after cutting my teeth in the classroom, I became a high school assistant principal and later principal. What never changed for me was the excitement surrounding the first day of school. The same feeling I had as a child came back to me as I prepared my room for my students’ return. Opening a new pack of chalk (yes, I used an actual chalkboard) was like getting a new Trapper Keeper, and I still loved cracking open new textbooks.
And here’s a truth: Teachers are as curious and excited about their new students as their students are about them. I loved getting my class rosters and beginning to learn names. I was so excited I would wait at the door and greet each new student as he or she came into my classroom.
I made it a point each year to get to know their names on the first day (not always easy when you have more than 100 students) and to learn something interesting about each one by the end of the first week. The first day of school was the best chance I had as a teacher and principal to send a clear message that I cared about my students and wanted them to be successful. The message I sent on the first day set the tone for the rest of the year, after all.
Now I have the privilege to serve as superintendent of schools in Moore County. And while I’ve traded Toughskins for ties, I still enjoy the first day of school as much as I ever did. As I visit schools and talk with teachers and students on these first days, I feel my hope for our future renewed.
One of the best things about a new school year is that we get to reinvent ourselves. Children and teachers come to the new year hopeful that this will be their best one yet. It’s an opportunity to learn from the lessons of the past and rise to the expectations of the present. It’s a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones.
A new school year gives us the chance to be even better today than we were yesterday.
More like this story