Bizarre is about the best way to describe what continues to unfold about our state school superintendent and his dealings with the state board of education.

Unfortunately all the weirdness detracts us from what education is actually all about–helping children learn.

And to remind us, I share the thoughts of my friend Susan McKim, who works for the state department of education, as she reflects on volunteering at a Montgomery school the first day of a recent school year.

“According to my Fitbit, I hit my target of walking 10,000 steps a day by 1:30 Thursday afternoon.  I usually have a little inward celebration when I reach that goal, but on Thursday, my response was more along the lines of “holy cow!”  The first day of school is always the same and always different – predictable only by being so unpredictable.

My day was busy, of course.  I initially filled in for a second grade teacher who had to get her own child started in a new school.  And during that time, I was complimented for my necklace, my brightly polished fingernails, my dazzling ability to write the number “52” in expanded form, and for smelling good.  I also consoled the child who wanted to wait until Monday to begin school since, in his words, “You can’t start something on Thursday!”

I escorted numerous children to their classes.  It sounds easy, but the room numbers were apparently assigned by drawing them from a hat.  On what number line does 119 come directly after 111?  Most of the children held my hand as we walked down the hall.  Some of them cried, along with their parents.  I went through three pocket packs of Kleenex in an effort to clear away all the tears and snot.  One giddy kindergartener could not wait to get started, but her little sister was devastated at losing her built-in playmate and could not stop wailing.  I worked some magic and little sister left on a happy note. 

A third grader decided that he didn’t really want to go to third grade after all and I managed to convince him that third grade was awesome and that he could not stay in second grade forever.  There was a first grader who had a meltdown during the tornado drill and had to walk around a bit to calm down again.  I gave out countless hugs, reassured many who were insecure, and coaxed some smiles from gloomy faces.  That was just the parents.  The children were a much easier sell.

Bus and carpool duty in the afternoon was a test of both patience and endurance.  I thought I was going to evaporate right there.  One kindergartener told me that she saw her daddy’s car, except it was blue instead of black and he wasn’t driving it.  A bus driver called me over because he wasn’t sure the little girl on his bus belonged there.  As it turned out, she wasn’t riding the bus at all; her mother was picking her up.  I asked her the very reasonable question of why she got on the bus.  She looked at me like I had lost my mind and very calmly said, “Well, I was hot and I wanted to go home.”  And I thought, “Me, too!  Maybe I should just have a seat beside her.”

I had arrived at the school at 7:00 that morning.  At 4:00 on Thursday afternoon, I left the school.  All of the children were safely on their way home.  The first day was over.  I was hungry because all I had eaten was a butterscotch DumDum for lunch.  I was hot, slightly sunburned, and tired from the emotion of the day.  I could not wait to get home and take a shower.  It was a fantastic day; I could not have been happier.  I left reassured that we do what we do for the children, for their future and ours, and with a determination to give them my very best.  Every. single. day.”

Thank you Susan for reminding us of what really is important.  And for volunteering.