As I send my daughter off on the big yellow school bus today for the first time, I am reminded of my first days of school. Next to Christmas, the first day of school was my second favorite day of the year. I loved shopping for new school supplies and a backpack. I carefully planned my outfit. I had a hard time sleeping before the first day of school.
Even at a young age, I loved structure, so going back to school meant getting back into a routine. I also loved the idea of new and fresh – a new box of crayons, a fresh start with classmates, an opportunity to study new subjects and read harder books. I was also excited to meet my teacher. Usually my sister had the same teacher two years before me, and I was excited to create my own experience.
Going back to school meant seeing my friends again. Unlike my current suburban life, we didn’t live on a cul-de-sac and have play dates. During the summer, especially before I could drive, seeing my friends was usually limited to 4-H club meetings, the county fair, and perhaps a birthday party. There was also the promise of new students on the first day of school. In a small town, new students are a big deal. When you spend K-12 with the same 80 kids, anyone new is a potential new friend. My best friend from my small town was a new student on the first day of 3rd grade (Hi, Julie!)
Small Town Leadership lesson: It’s important to figure out what it takes to have the same “first day of school” spirit in our adult lives. Perhaps it’s not being able to sleep the night before leaving for a big vacation. Maybe it’s taking on a new assignment at your place of work or in the community. For me, I get the feeling when I have something new or enjoyable happening at work, or when my kids get to have a fun experience for the first time. It is important to infuse new and fresh in our daily lives. If school kids get to start fresh every fall, then we can also do this in our personal and professional lives.