LUKSHAITIS: Are you ready for school to start?
I stopped at the little store near my home a few weeks ago and the gentlemen behind the counter said to me, “Are you ready for school to start?”
At Open House this week, several parents asked me the same question. My brother asked me a month ago. After
dumping an ice bucket of water over the top of my head and down my body as I stood alongside my fellow administrators at half-time of our varsity football game, a mother of one of our high school students asked me as I went dripping by.
This is an oft-posed question and I have learned to answer it several ways depending on the social situation. So thoughts go through my head (this happens when ice buckets and heads co-mingle) while I give the thumbs up.
When my dad asks me that question, I know he is asking as a retired guidance counselor with nearly 40 years in public education. He is asking me, in other words, educator to educator, and veteran to veteran. As a mentor, and as my father I tell him, “We are ready for the doors to be open!” I tell him this because the halls and classrooms are empty; they were designed to house students and offer the accoutrements of education for all. He understands the volume of planning that teachers, administrators and other staff put in during the summer to make sure the school year goes off without too many hitches. He knows good planning means we are talking about students, data, research and reports. But I know my father well, and I also remember he was the man in the hallway talking with every student, trying to reach out and make connections. I know my father misses school because he misses those interactions with students, parents and colleagues, and yes, those meetings. He asks me because he is probably ready himself.
When my wife asks, she wants to know if I have prepared for the coming year, if I have made sure the principals, teachers and staff have everything they need to be successful, if I have done everything I could possibly do. I review this question in my head and say, “Yes. We are ready.” I say this to her because she asked me last night and as a teacher herself, she expected a real answer.
I think back to the store and the question that prompted this memory spurt and how I answered. When the gentleman asks, I am paying for the gas I pumped and I smile, “We are ready at Pine River.” When I say that I mean, literally, that after planning all summer and getting ready for a new school year, we really are ready for our students to arrive. As the words come out I realize how true this is. We are ready at Pine River and I would guess at every local school for the same reason, because deep down: we are educators and we are school!
When someone asks if I am ready for to school to start they may as well ask if I am breathing.
Last weekend, while visiting two of our grandsons in Gwinn, our oldest son asked me if we were ready for school. We were in a long, gleaming aisle at the time and I watched my 4-year-old grandson, Brayden, rummaging through the Back to School items and grabbing at small pads of paper, markers, folders and everything he could think to touch. I saw the wonder and anticipation in his eyes. New year, new possibilities! New teachers, new friends! Are you ready for school to start? I nearly asked him, but I stopped myself when he said, “Grandpa, look!” and he held aloft an 18-inch ruler. “It’s bigger this year!” he pronounced to the entire world. It’s bigger this year, every year, I thought. So yes, everyone, Brayden is ready for school to start and so am I.