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Educators' Memories of the First Day of School

Sep 09, 2015

The first day of school is a big deal. It’s a big deal for students and parents, but it also is a big deal for educators. Sometimes the most memorable events occur on Day 1. Take a look at some of the flashbacks educators shared about memorable first days.

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The Anxiety

I taught for 41 and a half years and still had first day of school nightmares that I had overslept, forgot to go, was not prepared (even though I had my room ready two weeks prior to the first day) etc. First day jitters never disappeared.

- Mary Lou Ellena

I Will Remember You

It was the first day of school in the seventies at a local junior high where I taught. Mr. Reese, the assistant principal and a few faculty members were outside welcoming the students as they got off the buses. Everyone was in good spirits, full of hope for a successful year ahead.

There was a lull in the stream of junior high buses and at the same time one of the high school buses was passing on the street in front of the school. A high schooler, head hanging out the window, yelled, “Hey, Mr. Reese, you old b_ _ _ _ _ d!” All of us teachers gasped, looked toward the very proper Mr. Reese for a reaction and he turned to us and said, “Isn’t it nice to be remembered?”

- Dr. Paula Calabrese

And Thus Began My Teaching Career

I had just taken my first teaching job as a teacher of fifth graders. It was a Catholic school and at the time, there were fifty students in the self-contained classroom. I taught all the subjects plus religion and the students looked larger than life.

During those first few weeks, the principal came to visit my classroom for an observation. I was clueless as to her purpose and her expectations of me. She came in, stayed an entire class, looked around, took notes and left without a word.

Later that day she came by to offer me feedback. Her words are burned into my memory. “There are two kinds of teachers. Those that are born and those that are made. I was born. YOU are going to have to be made.” And thus began my teaching career. After 30 plus years, I’m still “making” myself.

- Dr. Paula Calabrese

I Think That’s Great!

I taught math on one of two 8th grade teaching teams at Catonsville Middle School in Baltimore County in the early 1990s. Our fearless team leader and veteran English teacher, Ms. McChesney, was right next door. Ms. McChesney started each year by having the students answer questions about their dreams and aspirations.

We had one particularly challenging class of 8th graders one year. Lucky for us, a resource teacher, Mrs. Davis, traveled with this class all day and was invaluable in keeping a sharp eye on this group.

The students were led by one particularly irksome classmate, Keith. Keith decided that the he wanted to answer the question, “What career do you aspire towards?” with a response that matched his personality. He scrawled one word, “STRIPER”.

Along comes Mrs.Davis, glancing to see that the students were on task. An evil Grinch-like smile crossed Keith’s face as Mrs. Davis read his response. Mrs. Davis growled at Keith. “Is that what you want to be when grow up Keith?” Keith replied in his best Beavis & Butthead-esque tone, “uh, yeah. Huh ha ha huh.”

Without missing a beat Mrs. Davis smiled and cheered, “I think that’s great, Keith. I really think that is a great aspiration.” Keith was dumfounded and could only reply, “uhhh?” It was one of his most often expressed syllables.

Mrs. Davis continued, “That’s wonderful! I think it’s great that you want to be a fish. Yes Keith. That could be the career for you. A striper. That’s a bass, Keith. Excellent! That’s one to strive for.” Then Mrs. Davis bent down and whispered to Keith, “Spelling always counts.”

- Joe Finucan

A Wizard and a Genius

Prior to the advent of computer scheduling, students were hand scheduled using punch cards. Balancing classes became the task of the assistant principal and often required a degree in logistics.

Early in my career on one first day of school, nearly every teacher in the building had a student named Harry Gluppe on his or her schedule. Harry was enrolled in Cooking, in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English 9, 10, 11 and 12. Harry was taking every physical education class, every math class. In short Harry Gluppe was taking every course that my high school had to offer. At the end of that first day of school, I joined nearly every teacher in the building in the office, reporting Harry as a no-show to both the assistant principal (in charge of tracking Harry down) and the Guidance Counselors (in charge of monitoring Harry’s attendance and progress).

After a few minutes, we realized that during scheduling that past spring, a graduating senior had somehow managed to schedule fictitious Harry for every course that the school had to offer! Poor Harry was a wizard and a genius - but alas, he did not exist. I have never forgotten poor Harry Gluppe and thought of him each first day of school. This was an ingenious senior prank as well.

- Mary Lou Ellena

C is for Coat and Cubby

It was my first day of my first time teaching kindergarten. The students were excited to start school and eager to please.

It was a chilly morning for the start of the school year, so most of the students wore jackets and coats. My enthusiasm peaked as they entered the classroom. I was ready to fill their minds with ABCs and 1, 2, 3s. In my haste, I told the children to put their coats in their cubby when they entered the room.

Woops. Kindergarten students = literal minds. The entire group was jamming their coats into the tiny space at the top of the cubby where papers go. They wanted to please me and struggled to abide. It was then that I realized that I was dealing with five year olds and had to be super explicit.

I rephrased quickly, "Hang your coat on the hook inside your cubby." Looks like the kindergarteners taught the teacher something that first day of school.

- Mary Jo Maggio

Like Winning the Powerball

I was a teacher at Wilkins Middle School back in 1987. It was a large school and there were several science teachers, one of which was Ray Peterzack. Ray was very quiet not one to spend time in the faculty room so not many teachers knew him very well. I got to know him because our rooms were connected and we both taught Earth Science. As the year went on I learned that this was going to be Ray’s last year. He and his wife, also teacher, were going to retire.

One day that last year, during homeroom a student came up to my desk and asked what Mr. Peterzack meant by this stamp on his test. I looked at the stamp and it read “Beam me up Scotty, No intelligent life here”. It was then I learned there was a very quirky personally inside this quiet guy.

That brings me to the first day of school 1988. Ray retired and his new replacement was in place. Everyone was excited to start the school year. As the busses pulled up the staff went out to meet the kids. And there across the street, sitting on a lawn chair in his pajamas, drinking a cup of coffee was Ray waving to everyone as the buses unloaded. Grinning like he won the Powerball.

- Tom DeMarco



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