The First Day

As a new principal, the night before the first day with kids was just like being a new teacher all over again. I tossed and turned all night. I rehearsed the day over and over in my mind. I was prepared if it rained. I had systems in place for the influx of new student registrations. Teachers were prepared for morning and afternoon duties. Staff members were assigned to lunch and recess duties. Student dismissal procedures were established. We were ready, right?

August 6, 2012

I woke up early, skipped breakfast and took the back roads to avoid the Amtrak train, which delayed traffic and closed the road for up to an hour at times. I got to school by 6:00. Time quickly slipped away. The excitement of the first day was in the air. Parents and students arrived soon after 7:00. Ready or not the first day was underway. Then it started to get blurry. Returning students wanted to visit their classrooms, meet their new teachers and drop off supplies. New students and parents were not sure where to go. Moms cried as their kindergarteners clung tight. Kindergarteners cried as they reluctantly walked into their classrooms. Teachers greeted students and parents. The day was officially underway.

By 8:15, I was exhausted. I helped in the office long enough to know I was just getting in the way. I walked the campus, checked in the cafeteria and restrooms, escorted parents and students to classrooms. I made a final sweep through the playgrounds and hallways before I checked in with teachers. I went to each classroom and counted students taking the “warm body count.” Teachers set the tone for the year as they reviewed student handbooks and classroom expectations.

By 9:00, there was a calm that fell over the campus. I caught my breath and responded to a few emails and returned phone calls. The next thing I knew it was 10:45. It was time to prepare for lunch, cafeteria duty and recess. Kindergarten was first, followed by second grade, then, first, third, fourth and fifth grades. Thankfully the teachers stayed and ate lunch with the kids.

The time on the clock indicated 12:45. Lunch and recess had ended. Next, we checked in with teachers to ensure they knew how their students were getting home. Time hastily ticked away before our eyes. We contacted transportation, parents and teachers to double-check our dismissal forms.

At 2:50, teachers began to dismiss students. Parents engulfed the office to sign out their children. The parent pickup line of cars streamed out of the parking lot and down the street. Teachers coordinated their efforts to securely release students. Other parents parked in the front lot and walked in to pick up their kids in the multipurpose room. When the doors opened, a rush of parents consumed the room. Meanwhile, we received calls over the walkie-talkie regarding students walking home, not able to locate their older or younger sibling. Calls echoed over the radio from the bus lot attempting to locate missing brothers and sisters. By 3:30 the walkers and bikers were en route home, the buses had departed, and parent pick-up had dwindled down to only a car or two remaining. Only a few students remained who were escorted to the front office.

At 3:40, I headed back to the front office where the phones were singing. Parents. Transportation. District office. Teachers. Soon the phones fell silent and a still embraced the campus until the beep, beep of a bus horn filled the air. Three students were returned because no one was home. Phone calls were made and soon the children were on their way home. Day 1 came to a close. All students accounted for-safe and sound. Sigh. Before heading home we debriefed with staff and explored ways to improve for day two.


Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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