Sep 23, 2011 Herm Card Uncategorized
“The times they are a-changin’” said Bob Dylan in 1964, the year I graduated from high school. True then, true now, and on September 7, the times changed for over 20,000 Syracuse City School District Students.
There are some 19,000 students in K-12 grades and an additional 1,300 in pre-kindergarten. They are in five high schools, six middle schools, six K-8 Schools, 14 elementary schools, and four alternative schools/programs. They are 53 percent black, 28 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American/Alaskan. They are incredibly diverse in their demographics, in their interests, in their abilities, in their goals and in their needs, but they share one common bond – they are in school.
Pre-K students are away from home for the first time in their young lives. Some kindergarteners have moved up from Pre-K to a new adventure, and other kindergarteners are in school for the first time. Elementary students move to middle school, middle schoolers move to high school. Juniors and seniors count up their credits and ponder the future — the unknown that comes next.
At Porter School, I watched the times change for several classes of kindergartners and their parents and for the SCSD. Very few students are ever greeted on their first day as these were — by SCSD Superintendent Sharon Contreras and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, women important to their future, but on this first day of school, just visitors who made them feel welcome and cared about.
Ms. Contreras served breakfast and she and Mayor Miner welcomed students to school, chatting with them in their classrooms about their new shoes and their new friends and their new world.
There is a “first day feeling” in Porter School as there is in all schools. The energy is intense — the teachers are the calmest in the place. This is their specialty. The “pre-game jitters” give way to the excitement of the new year and the chance to do once again what it is they do so well — teach.
Among the young students, there is chatter, there is laughter, there is an occasional tear.
School is a curious world when you are 5, as it is still a curious world when you are 18. The years in between are a marvelous adventure for some, an arduous struggle for others, but on that first day, that first day of “real” school, everyone starts even.
Parents and students embark on a new adventure — teachers and staff and administrators renew theirs. It seems easier for parents who have other children in school, but still they linger to make sure it is OK to leave. Some linger longer than others — leaving your first child in school, in the care of others for the first time is not easy. For a five-year-old, watching your parents leave the room, leaving you in a strange place with strangers — new caretakers, new potential friends, makes for a nervous time.
I can still see my mother, 60 years ago, waving goodbye to me through the window of my kindergarten class with a wistful look on her face that I had never seen before, and don’t recall ever seeing again. Then she was gone and I was alone among 25 strangers and a teacher, to begin a school adventure that continues still.
On September 7 at Porter school, I saw similar looks on parents’ and grandparents’ faces as the adventure began for them and their children. The kids? They were busy, caught up in their new adventure, their new world. Times had indeed changed.
Herm Card is a former teacher with more than 32 years of classroom experience and 20 years as a professional development consultant. His column runs bi-weekly in The Eagle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.