Thursday, July 26, 2018

A New Box of Crayons

“You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So ...get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

With the start of a new school year just a few short weeks away, I find myself reliving many of the same memories and emotions I experienced on my own first days of school and pretty much every year since.  It’s a familiar and nostalgic recipe, blending equal parts anticipation, excitement and optimism with a dash of nervousness and a pinch (or two) of apprehension.

In elementary school I’d wonder who my teacher would be, whether I’d like him or her, if I'd make new friends and whether my new school clothes would be cool, dorky or something in-between.  I’d be excited about the new things we’d soon be learning, yet I’d worry about how I'd keep up with my classmates. Would there be a lot of homework?  What reading group would I be in?  What if the teacher calls on me and I don’t know the answer?  Will my best friends be in my same class? How will I be treated by the kids I don’t know?  What kind of goodies will my mom be packing each day in my new “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” lunchbox?

The elementary years eventually came to an end and I moved on to new chapters, varying contexts and different perspectives. Yet the underlying themes I wondered about, looked forward to and worried over, remained remarkably constant throughout my student experiences, through parenthood  and into grandparent-hood, from being a teacher to eventually becoming a superintendent. True, I no longer carry a lunchbox with the faces of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin plastered on the front (probably now a collectors item on Ebay), but every year I still experience that same thrilling anticipation and trepidation of new adventures ahead that can only come from a fresh start ... a new beginning.

As a very young student and even into my teens, nothing said "fresh starts and new beginnings" like our annual late-August pilgrimage to the local drugstore, where my brother and I would excitedly pick out our school supplies for the coming year and then try to convince our mom we really needed them.  From three-ring binders and "Pee Chee" folders, to #2 pencils, pens, rulers, paper and anything else we could get our hands on, we loved it all.  I can only imagine what damage we'd have done if there was such a thing as "Amazon," "Staples" or "Office Depot" back then!

Of all the school supplies I'd eventually take with me on my first day, there was one item that stood out from all the rest. Even though I sadly only had this special item with me for my earliest years of school, it still holds a special place in my heart.  That item was a new box of crayons.

To me, a new box of crayons always looked, felt and even smelled like the first day of school.  Crayons were a little package of magical, vibrant color that could transform a blank page into ... well ... anything.  I didn't know it as a first grader, but a new box of crayons became my personal metaphor for a new beginning.

So, as the start of the 2018-19 school year approaches, let's take a moment to reach for a brand new "pine green," "midnight blue," "brick red," or perhaps even a "raw umber." Whether we are RVSD teachers, staff, administrators, Trustees, parents or students, let's color ourselves a new beginning and as Dr. Seuss encourages, "get on our way!"