Back to School Angst
Do you remember your very first day of school?
The bus forgot to pick me up on my first day of kindergarten in the Baldwin-Woodville school district, and my mom had to drive me to school. So on the second day of school, when my bus disgorged all of the kids in front of the old Baldwin Elementary School, I just followed them into the building. But nothing was familiar. I’m not sure if I cried, but I do remember that when someone asked me who my teacher was, I answered, “Mrs. Johnson,” and was kindly escorted to Mrs. Johnson’s room. I looked at her, and she was a stranger.
What I didn’t realize—because I had missed the bus—was that all kindergarteners were supposed to walk to the back of the school in Baldwin and get on another bus going to the elementary school in Woodville, where all of the district’s kindergarten classes were held.
The first day of school is not the only day when mix-ups can occur. Check out Vernick’s First Grade Dropout and Mann’s I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard for two good examples.
I was often sick during the first half of kindergarten. In fact, I was hospitalized twice with pneumonia and once to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. One of my bouts with pneumonia was before Christmas, and I almost didn’t make it home for the holiday. When school started after the New Year, I was certain that I would be going to first grade—after all, I had two older sisters who always advanced a grade after a school break. I was sure they sent me back to kindergarten because I was too dumb.
Every summer I always anticipated the start of the new school year, but this feeling changed when it was time for my own sons to go to kindergarten. I was totally like the father in Wohnoutka’s Dad’s First Day below.
Maybe it would have been easier on me if either son had expressed any interest in going to school. After going on a tour of Alex’s new school, I used my excited voice to ask him, “Doesn’t this look like fun?!!” Alex’s response: “I don’t like it. Even if I have fun, I’m not going to like it.” While checking out Nathan’s school, Nathan let go of my hand and started to race down the long, empty hallway. I told him that running wasn’t allowed in school, and he was appalled. “Well, where CAN I run?” he said, as two big tears rolled down his cheeks.
One more first day story, this one happening on my first day as a teacher. Leroy, one of my new second-graders, came in with a handful of marigolds from his mother’s garden. I thanked him “very much!” and said that I hoped he had asked his mom’s permission first. The sweet little boy said, “She won’t mind. She always says that they stink.” Thanks again, Leroy!
Do you have any fun, funny, or touching stories about a first day of school? Tell us in the comments below, and enjoy these books while you wait for “back-to-school.”
Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey. 9781454911791. 2015. Gr PK-2.
Ally is is excited to make new friends at school, especially with kids who are crazy about dinosaurs like she is. But as she goes through her day, she finds no one like herself; even worse, she is snubbed by a group of “princesses.” Will school be a disaster? I like how Torrey has drawn Ally and the other students in black and white overlaid with motifs of their alter egos: Ally has dragon spikes and a tail while the princesses’ gowns are superimposed on their regular clothes, showing how much young children identify with their passions.
Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka. 9781619634732. July 2015. Gr PK-2.
Oliver is fired up to start school, but his dad—not so much. After a summer spent doing things together, Dad is not quite ready to send Oliver off. When the big day finally arrives, Dad finds all sorts of ways to delay the inevitable, until Oliver’s teacher finally has to carry Dad and his tantrum out of the classroom. (When I asked the author about his resemblance to the book’s dad, Mike confessed that the story itself was somewhat autobiographical.)
First Grade Dropout by Audrey Vernick (ill. by Matthew Cordell). 9780544129856. July 2015. Gr PK-1.
The narrator of this book is a pretty ordinary boy in first grade, but then he made one mistake—and now he knows he can never go back to school. Even his very best friend laughed at him. It doesn’t help that his teacher says it happens every year. If he were a magician, he could use his magic to make everyone forget his mistake; if he had a time machine, he could go back in time and not make the mistake. But when he does go back, no one teases him for calling the teacher, “Mommy.”
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann. 9780763665142. 2015. Gr K-3.
Rosie is certain she will never get a star next to her name on the blackboard, because Mrs. Benson only gives stars to “neatniks” and kids who follow the rules. Rosie’s mind often wanders and her creativity tends to get a little messy—fine, a LOT messy. But Mrs. Benson is not as imperious as she seems at first, and Rosie and the rest of her class learn that there is more than one way to earn a star.
Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols. 9780399167539. July 2015. Gr PK-1.
First there was just Maple, and then Maple and Willow together. Now it is time for Maple to go to big-girl school, and Willow is left behind. When Maple comes home with stories of her adventures at school, Willow tries to counter with tales of her own exploits. In reality, she just wishes Maple were home, but Maple, well, she is having too much fun even to think of Willow. Right? A sweet story about the younger siblings left behind.
Check out more back-to-school titles:
Alphabet School by Stephen T. Johnson. 9781416925217. September 2015. Gr K-3.
Birdie’s Big-Girl School Day by Sujean Rim. 9780316407458. July 2015. Gr PK-1.
Daddy’s Back-to-School Shopping Adventure by Alan Lawrence Sitomer (ill. by Abby Carter). 9781423184218. 2015. Gr PK-K.
Goose Goes to School by Laura Wall. 9780062324375. 2015. Gr PK-1.
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! by Elise Parsley. 9780316376570. July 2015. Gr PK-1.
Monkey : Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown. 9780553496581. 2015. Gr PK-K.
My First Day by Leilani Sparrow (ill. by Dan Taylor). 9781499801118. July 2015. Gr PK-1.