I have been teaching for almost 40 years and the first day of school is still filled with a special kind of excitement and anticipation that is like no other.
The American Embassy School where I work in Lusaka has over 500 students from “play school” (age 2) up through grade 12 (age 18+) from more than 40 different countries. This year, almost 25% of the students were brand new to the school and many came with anxious parents trailing behind them, making sure they found their classroom, checking their book-bags for supplies and lunch, cornering the teacher or principal for reassurance that the day would go well for Johnny or Susie (or Mtwalo or Sasha…) After a brief time in advisory class or homeroom, all the students trooped down to the PAC (Performing Arts Center) for the opening assembly.
It was quite a sight as the kids filled up the auditorium. There was that unmistakable vibe of a new year beginning. Students filled in with their classes – everyone from the strapping, know-it-all seniors at the back, to the teeny-tiny preschoolers at the front. Rhythmic music played over the sound system and kids came in grinning and waving, wide-eyed and nervous, some holding hands, some of the younger ones being propelled by their teachers, some bounding into the space like they owned it.
And then the director stood up and asked everyone to stand and sing the national anthem. My musical debut at the school, I played the piano while the student body sang with great gusto! And then…the school year began!