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The Power of a New Pencil

images I’m fighting a buying impulse.  Pencils, spiral notebooks, and stickers are calling.  If I dare go to a store this week, I’ll come home with three bags full of back-to-school supplies.  I’d probably even buy plain white paper, a 500-sheet pack.  I don’t need anything for school, and my Grands already have their school things.  For most of my life, I’ve shopped for school supplies.  As a student, as a teacher, then a mother and teacher.  I like everything that says it’s time to start school.

But I didn’t always feel this way.  When I started school, I didn’t like it one bit.  Mother dressed me in my new dress and brown saddle oxfords and kissed me good-bye.  Daddy drove me to school and walked me to my first grade classroom.  I sat in my assigned desk until the teacher turned toward the chalkboard and then I bolted out the classroom’s open back door to the playground.

I had good reason not to like school.  My first grade teacher expected me to sit still and quiet on a hard wooden chair.  I’d gone to school several times with my big brother who was five years older and sat on a quilt on the floor right beside the teacher.  I’d colored pictures (probably with new crayons) and looked at books.  Our family lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone – including all the teachers.

My very first day of school, I ran across the playground, down the road, and across a few backyards to the service station that Daddy owned.  He put me in his car and drove to school.  He held my hand and shoulder tightly and guided me toward my classroom where my teacher stood, holding the door open.  I sat in my desk.  Head down and cried until the teacher said for everyone to stand and say the alphabet together before we copied the letters from a poster onto our lined paper.  Letters of the alphabet that weren’t even in the correct order.  My brother and his best friend had taught me to say the ABC’s – in reverse order.  So on that very first day of school, I stood to recite the alphabet with all my classmates and I said, “Z Y X W…” The teacher didn’t think it was funny, but my classmates laughed.

I ran out the door again.  Right into Daddy’s arms.  He held a switch he’d just cut and he took me behind a big oak tree.  Just the sight of the switch hurt me as if I’d been spanked.  Daddy told me I had to stay in my classroom and that he’d be right outside the door to hug me at 3:00.  It took about a week for me stop running and stay at school.

On the first day of school tomorrow, there might be a student or two who’d like to run out the door.  I hope these kids get the rewards for going to school that I did.  Praise, hugs, and a new pencil every Monday morning.  A yellow pencil with a smooth pink eraser.