I got up at 5:30. I could sleep in till as late as 5:45 but I like to have a big breakfast of bacon and eggs every morning as I meditate over coffee on the day to come. By 6:30 I am presentable in a shirt and tie and out the door.
I hit the road on my long commute through the farmlands of central Wisconsin. Cows and corn mostly with the occasional Amish homestead with a whole zoo of animals including goats, sheep horses and geese and a working sawmill to boot. The highway has been surfaced recently with a mix of oil and loose gravel for no reason I can think of except to put yet more chips in my already abused windshield. This is a busy little road with commuters like me sharing the road with tractors, milk trucks, and, as of today, school buses. I make way to wave at the drivers. If they know you, sometimes they will pull to the side and let you pass. All of them slow me down. I keep awake by switching from public radio to the speed metal of my youth. What can I say? I was fifteen once, too.
Then I arrive at school. Things get blurry at this point because I have to do so much in so little time. We cover rules most of my students already know. (All but six of my students were in my class last year for fifth grade.) Building rules, classroom rules, lunchroom rules, playground rules, where to go for fires and tornadoes, and how I expect them to walk in the halls (in a line, on the right, eyes on the back of the head in front of you, no talking, and no cutting corners).
They love my iPad. One of my co-workers gives me the idea of handing out 5-minute free time cards for it. During some free time, half of the girls circle around it and play Tiny Wings, then Tangrams, and then they look at different molecules and dissect a virtual frog. I have plans to work in a real dissection later in the year, so its good to know that they have strong stomachs. I teach four students the F, G7, D and C chords on the ukulele. Let’s hope the novelty holds on for a while.
I chew out a few students about the quality of work they put into their nametags. Trivial, I know, but it’s the first day and I need them to know that I expect them to work hard on everything, especially the trivial things, because often it’s the small details that matter the most.
I cook four of the last tiny ears of corn for a few of my students that worked on the garden last year for them to eat at lunch. They have already eaten their fill of raw beans. One of my co-workers and I go out the garden with the kids and pick a few apples for lunch. I eat a salad from the lunch line. I eat so much better when school starts.
Before I know it, the day is over; the kids have lined up and headed out. The only thing I think of now, the thing that will keep me up at night, is this simple question: What did I miss?