First day musings

Happy first day of school, everyone! I haven’t posted in a few days so there are a few things I wanted to note:

  • Nice article in the Chronicle this weekend on the Potrero Residents Education Fund (PREFund) parents’ investment in Daniel Webster Elementary. The school has been transformed by the care, investment and attention the neighborhood parents have showered on it since bringing the school back from the brink of closure in 2006.
  • High school students in San Mateo experienced a terrifying first day of school after a former classmate set off at least one pipe bomb at Hillsdale High School. The boy was captured before anyone was harmed, but the incident was chilling nonetheless. The principal and teachers at the school credit frequent drills on emergency procedures for quick action that kept anyone from getting hurt. SFUSD has recently updated all of its emergency procedures, so I’m confident our schools are similarly prepared, but it never hurts to double-check. Talk to your principal if you are at all concerned about safety issues.
  • I recently heard from a new Kindergarten parent who was very disappointed in the welcome offered to new families by her child’s new elementary school. The school principal did send out a letter to new and returning families, but it arrived less than a week before school started and had less information than the parent wanted. I understand how a new parent feels — when your child is entering a new school the most important thing is for you to feel that they will be welcomed into a safe, stable environment with open arms — but I also feel sympathy for the principal, who has a million and one things to juggle and arrange and fix and ready ahead of the start of school. In many schools, welcoming new parents is a task the PTA takes on, but sometimes it takes a few weeks for the PTA to rev up at the beginning of the year. If no one is around or paying attention in August, then the welcome letter doesn’t get done until the last minute, if at all. It is one of the niceties that falls through the cracks, because, after all, the important thing is to have schools ready to receive our children on the first day.  And like many veterans of the public schools, I have already forgotten the intense anxiety of the First Day of Kindergarten and settled into the “everything gets sorted out after the first week” attitude, because I’ve seen from experience that our children will be well-cared for.  So, I have two suggestions that might make everyone’s lives easier. To newbies: lighten up! Your children are going to be fine and if the first week is a bit chaotic, try to go with it. Things will settle down and I predict your child will be just fine (he or she might even enjoy the ride!). To veterans: remember what the first week was like and try to mentor or reach out to new families at your school. The small pieces of information no one thinks to pass on will make a world of difference to someone who is new.
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