A Welcoming and Welcome Day

September 1, 1977

As hassled as yesterday was with its administrative directives and meetings, today, the second Teacher Work Day, was low key but busy with preparations for the opening day of school and this afternoon’s Open House for newcomers.

Teachers were revitalizing their empty, lifeless classrooms--bringing in plants and animals, unrolling reading and discussion corner carpets, borrowing books and book jackets from the library to brighten up their rooms and spur on new reading interests, decorating the walls with art work from the previous year’s classes and……They were becoming familiar with class lists and the names of their children, especially the new children who would be coming in this afternoon to the Open House. Bus assignments were being double checked to ensure that every child got on the right bus home on the first day--especially the 1st and 2nd graders who often forgot their bus numbers with the excitement and anxiety of the first day. Enthusiasm was at a high!

The staff broke at noon for a pot luck lunch and gathered at the home of a staff member who lived near the school. After a delicious lunch, two teachers surprised us with a new game for the staff to play on the backyard lawn--Hug Tag.

They had learned this game during a weeklong humanistic and personal development workshop earlier in the summer. Some of us were a little shy to join in at first. The rules were simple:

  • You’re “it” and out of the game if you’re tagged while not hugging another person.
  • Only 2 people can be hugging
  • If a 3rd person comes over, one person must find another person to hug.

We all became hysterical with laughter running about the back yard randomly hugging one another trying not to be tagged “it”. While most of us have been on a first name basis for years, a friendly hug seemed to be a real expression of our feelings towards one another as we began another year working closely together as a staff.

We returned to the school shortly before the kindergarteners and the children whose families were new in town began arriving for the Open House. We were all energized by the lunch and the camaraderie of the Hug Tag.

The school exuded a warm, personal welcoming feeling. A PTO mother and her 4th grade daughter greeted the new families and directed them to the classrooms and answered questions about bus assignments, hot lunches, and all the other things that kids worry about the first day of school. The new kindergarteners, hand in hand with their moms and dads, were both excited and hesitant, and were visibly relieved after they had visited their classroom and met their new teacher.

The parent who came in to find a home for two guinea pigs and the parent who requested to see the guidance counselor regarding a family emergency were welcomed by the office staff. The school nurse could be seen putting up a new Star Wars poster alongside her nutrition poster.

A highlight of the afternoon for me was the invitation by Marilyn, the kindergarten bus driver, to join her and some of the kindergarteners on one of her many short rides around the neighborhood. I too felt like a kindergartener as this was a first for me after nine years of having been the school principal. Marilyn was my favorite bus driver as she cast the same spell upon the children as Captain Kangaroo or the fairy god mother in Disney’s Cinderella. Marilyn, with her discarded car antenna used like an old fashioned blackboard pointer, gave several safety tips as the children waited to board the bus, each tip punctuated by waving her magical antenna in the air as if she were ready to sing Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo.

Something new to me was the driver’s “blind spot” immediately in front of the bus which Marilyn acted out for the children who were taking turns sitting in the driver’s seat. Short and spunky, Marilyn appeared and disappeared several times in front of the bus as she continued her “lecture” and safety demonstration. What a wonderful character, driver, teacher and person!

My day ended at about 4:30 with a few interviews for a special education classroom aide. One of the two candidates, whom the teacher and I fell in love with within the first five minutes, reminded us both of Mother Goose. Mother Goose began work the next day.
What a great beginning to a new school year!

Excerpted from:
Teaching as an Act of Love: Thoughts and Recollections
of a Former Teacher, Principal and Kid