School Starts

Yesterday was the big day. I knew something big was underway when I went into K’s room at 6:02AM. Before I could even start pulling the covers off of him he sat bolt upright and said, “Should I get up now?”

I drove him to the country’s oldest public school and dropped him off around the corner so that no one would see him in the presence of an adult…let alone the Parent Imperfect.

RHS couldn’t have been more different. Opening day at the Hernández is a community event. Claudia wanted us in there on the first day she had ever been in the school without her brother. For something like the 30th year, Principal Margarita Muñíz welcomed elementary children and parents back, introduced the staff and then sent everyone off to their classrooms. It was especially good to see her back on the stage this year, holding her hand in the air until the chatter subsided. There comes a time when you can’t take anyone’s presence for granted.

Claudia has a “new” teacher…a young South American woman who was an intern at the school last year. Everyone I talk to is excited about her, even though she will be teaching on the English side of the school’s bilingual program divide.

I, too, had never been at the school when Kiernan was not a student there. The place is not the same without him.

As the elementary students filed out, the middle schoolers came in to hear a very different presentation from Margarita. “NO CELL PHONES, NO JEANS, WEAR THE UNIFORMS, ACT LIKE STUDENTS.” I remember listening to that welcome when Kiernan began sixth grade, and wondered why there couldn’t be just a little inspiration about education. By middle school, the Hernández is a different school. From the first day, middle schoolers hear mostly the riot act. I spoke to of K’s friends who are back for another year. Both said hello. Neither looked at all happy to be there.

We followed Claudia into her classroom and said goodbye, just as we have for each of the past nine years. The new teacher and her “para” looked as excited as the kids. The kids formed a circle on the floor at the front of the room, and it was time for us to exit to join all the other parents milling around the halls. We had, once again, left our child in the hands of relative strangers.


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