Hines Sight / Out of the nest, into the classroom
Some 50 years later, my first day of kindergarten is still fresh in my mind:
Brookside School in Norwalk, an ordinary one-story brick building surrounded by trees, but an imposing and scary place of strangers to a 5-year-old.
Mom and me on our way to the school, about a mile from the secure confines of our Cape Cod house.
Walking into the classroom with Mom.
Miss Bilmeyer, the teacher.
Mom leaving. Me still crying. Miss Bilmeyer comforting me.
The rest of the day is gone from my brain.
Mom told me just the other day that she remembers how Miss Bilmeyer calmed me down and how I settled in shortly after.
Mom also remembers that she may have left the classroom, but she hid behind the door and peeked in just to make sure I was OK. (Aren't moms the best?)
Millions of moms across the country, and hundreds here in Fairfield, will be doing just as mine did 50 years ago, except now they bring video or digital photograph equipment or cameras in their phones to record the momentous day. My mom carried my snack for me.
Earlier this week, my nephew and his wife were among the throngs of parents on the first day of the new year as their oldest son Maxx began his journey through school. His time and my time, 50 years apart, and Maxx is way better about going to school than I was.
I have other memories of the early grade school years, like the cubbyholes outside the kindergarten room where we kept our coats and snacks.
The smell of crayons, paint and clay. I still have a clay bowl that I made in kindergarten. My father used it for years to hold his coins.
And Miss Boldezar, the principal. A tall, skinny, crotchety woman who always carried a yard stick, which she regularly pounded against the wall of the gym/cafeteria to quiet her students.
I was not overly fond of school. I was an average student.
I always did my homework but never was a super achiever.
If I had a chance to do it all over again, I'd do it differently. I would have worked harder to overcome my shyness, be more outgoing and more involved.
I rarely joined any after-school activities, except scouting (which I didn't like all that much), and dreaded being called on for anything. I do remember, though, wanting so much to be a student hall monitor because we got to wear this really cool canvas sash.
Now, in some schools across the country, there are police officers in the parking lots and security guards in the hallways.
Despite my own experiences, school is a wonderful time. It is when we make new (and sometimes lifelong) friends, learn all there is to learn and grow as human beings. But never forget that school and all that goes into it is a huge undertaking. Consider these facts about 2012-13 from the National Center for Education Statistics, which states that "America's schools and colleges will welcome back record numbers of students this fall as population increases and high enrollment rates continue.
In particular, more elementary students (prekindergarten through grade 8) are expected to enter U.S. public school systems than ever before"
More than 49.8 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools.
Of these, 35.1 million will be in prekindergarten through eighth grade and 14.8 million will be in grades 9 through 12.
An additional 5.3 million students are expected to attend private schools.
Public school systems will employ about 3.3 million full-time-equivalent teachers, and the pupil-teacher ratio will be 15.2. Public elementary and secondary schools will spend about $571 billion.
On average, the expenditure per student is projected at $11,467.
About 3.4 million students are expected to graduate from high school, including 3.1 million from public high schools and 283,000 from private.
Here in Fairfield, David Title, the superintendent of schools, offers his own words -- taken from the opening page of the "Family Guide to the Fairfield Public Schools" -- to welcome back Fairfield students to the classroom, "The beginning of a new school always brings excitement, and the start of the 2012-2013 year is no exception.
The enthusiasm for learning generated by more than 10,000 Fairfield students and more than 1,400 staff members manifests itself in high quality instruction and excellent student work."
To the students of Fairfield -- make the most of it.