Some adults might strain to remember what the first day of school was like, particularly the first day entering a new school. We educators, though, don’t need reminding, as we engage in this ritual every year. We follow familiar pathways and routines while knowing instinctively that each school year is unique. It is an important combination. Someone once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Schools always have to balance continuity and change, tempering renewal with tradition and consistency. And so we go and grow.
The first day of school is also an important exercise in community and empathy. Last week at lunch, a faculty member spoke to me about acclimating an anxious new child to a day of faculty day care. Seeing the boy’s anxiety, the teacher asked a “veteran” four-year-old, “Do you remember what it felt like on your first day last year?” The child nodded and went right over to welcome the younger boy to the group. By day two, that new boy was ready to dive right in! Encouraging the older boy to empathize with what the new one was feeling helped to create an instant bond and spur action. We often say that students new to North Shore aren’t “new” for very long and that’s why. My family and I have already been lucky enough to see this process in action through a series of warm welcomes from the community.
I have a particular vantage point on this annual event this year. Today is my “first day” of school at North Shore, and along with the excitement that’s been growing since last fall, I’m not afraid to admit to a few butterflies in my stomach. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because that mix can only really occur when we stretch ourselves into the unfamiliar.
Maybe what I note most of all with my fresh eyes is the world of opportunity that this new school year offers North Shore students: from planting gardens to AP statistics; Hot Chocolate Houses to CITYterm; coding in Middle School to Interim week in the Upper School; Science Olympiad to Model UN; Girls/Boys on the Run to outdoor education. I had a wonderful education growing up but the range of experiences open to North Shore students is broader by an order of magnitude.
Education is the most optimistic of pursuits, oriented entirely toward the future. Today, North Shore opens its doors for the 97th time. Much will be familiar and much will be new but the care and growth of our students will always be our core pursuit. Welcome to the first day of school!
North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.