The Best Nights Of My Life

“Meet The Teacher” was last night. I still remember the very first Meet The Teacher night I ever experienced. I had my room set up just right, I had a table with cookies and punch, and I got to meet the sweetest 2nd graders and their families. After the dust cleared (literally, I was in Lubbock, TX) and the room was once again quiet I thought to myself, this is the start of the rest of my life….and these may very well be some of the best nights of my life.

But last night, for the first time in 15 years, I did not have a classroom to welcome the parents into. I will admit that I have been wondering for a while now about how I would feel on this day. Change can be so exciting and yet so … weird…all at the same time. As the teachers went about putting on the finishing touches to their rooms just hours before our parents arrived, I felt a little bit of jealousy….”Ohhhh how cute her room is” and “oh wow look at the organized space he has set up for parents” were thoughts rumbling around in my head as I walked the halls and prepared to welcome — not a class of parents — but this year, a whole, entire school of parents. How would this go for me? How was I going to feel? Well…

As my principal and I welcomed guests, I had the absolute joy of seeing the excited faces of the kindergarten students (and the nervous faces of their parents). Now, I have never taught kindergarten. And really I am okay with that; I am sure it would amount to a major fiasco! But I found my eyes welling up with tears as I watched these little ones coming in so excited — one boy in particular was wearing his backpack because, as his dad explained to me, he “has not taken it off since we bought it last week”. How did I ever manage to be a teacher for 15 years and miss out on this once in a lifetime night of joy and nerves down the kinder wing?!

I had great fun meeting and joking around with some 5th graders as well…it was the first hallway I headed for and that makes sense to me because that is the grade level in which I spent the most time as a teacher. I visited with the 4th graders next (the grade level I have taught the past 4 years) and saw the familiar “all grown up” look that 4th graders appear with after having left just a couple months before as young and hesitant 3rd graders…something happens over the summer between 3rd and 4th grade!

Then I made my way to the 1st graders, who I sometimes did mistake for kindergarten students! Their eyes were wide as they discovered this chair and that desk and this lamp….The 2nd graders (the first grade I ever taught) were excited and I had a lot of fun meeting them, remembering back 15 years as I commented to one student, “my first class of students were 2nd graders”. He asked what I had thought of them. I told him they were the smartest group of kids in the world, of course.. I even stopped into a couple of the specials rooms, and the library. I have never had the pleasure of seeing all the little book lovers piled into the library on Meet The Teacher night..looking with wonder and anticipation at the rows and rows of books with stories and characters waiting to be discovered. Sure, I have sent them there when they left my room on that special back to school night. “Don’t forget to check out the library!” I would say as the family left my classroom. But this was the first time I was actually there for it.

I thanked countless dads who had arrived to inquire about our new Watch Dogs program, directed traffic as parents looked for the line to purchase a spirit shirt…a car tag…a supply box…a cafeteria payment….Thank goodness for the office ladies (a job I also once held, while working my way through college!) and the PTA parents who answered my questions so that I could answer questions and directed me to the right area so I could direct others to the right areas! The night was a whirlwind of excitement, curiosity, and discovery for me as I finally met the parents and students who will fill the halls on Monday. Who on one night finally came, and completed the picture -my picture – of “home”.

So how did my first Meet The Teacher night go as an administrator? Well, I just couldn’t shake this one thought that kept going through my head…

This is the start of the rest of my life, and these may very well be some of the best nights of my life.