Summer vacation is slowly disappearing and Fall is making it’s appearance. Your kids have their new back packs full of paper, pencils, notebooks, books, and other goodies, and their days are full of new possibilities. The Back to School season had begun!

This year, we have entered a new atmosphere—junior high school. Full of excitement and unfamiliarity, this new adventure began the weekend before school started with the new student orientation. New students filed into the auditorium, clutching schedules, searching for familiar faces, exclaiming with joy when seeing a friend. After the slide show and explanations from the principal and her assistant, after the fun student body officers and cheerleaders introduce themselves, everyone files out to try their new lockers and search the halls for their classrooms. Among the exciting experiences of the day, everyone learned:

  • the location of the two (only two?!) stairwells and how to maneuver them.
  • that the student body officers are super, incredibly nice and cool and helpful and compassionate and I wish I had known them as students in my classes.
  • that the cheerleaders were sweet, even before they started handing out ice cream, and that they were sweet enough to offer all of the parents some, too.
  • how to actually open the lockers by following this list of instructions: (no, I am not kidding) turn the knob all the way around twice. Start at zero. Turn right past your first combination number twice. Then turn to the first number. Turn left past your second number once. Turn to your second number. As you turn right toward your third number, the lock will tighten or get hard to turn. Take your hand off, get a good grip on the knob, and while you turn, push in on the locker and it will (supposedly) pop open.
  • that everyone, including the principal and some cheerleaders, were having problems opening the lockers
  • that the student body officers were the ones who knew the magic touches to opening said lockers. (Seriously, folks. Why do we need more complication in life? We could casually flip our lock right, left, right, breath on the thing while touching it with one finger and it would open magically. Progress, indeed.)
  • how to recognize the sound of the PA system and the voice of the office staff during the few announcements made throughout the two hours we are there. Important announcements such as: “Could we please get a custodian to locker number 2308?” “Could we please get a custodian to locker number 2045?” “If anyone has a top locker and would like to switch with someone who has a bottom locker, please come to the office.” (Thank you dear fellow student who requested a switch. Some of these dear newbies did not have enough leverage to open the top lockers. Their squeal of excitement was justified as their new, lower locker popped open at their touch.) “Students, if you want some more ice cream, the cheerleaders have it in the office. Please come and get some more!”

My favorite part of this day was seeing my child surrounded by a school full of her friends and fellow schoolmates, something I lacked a bit during my first few months of junior high school. The new school, new atmosphere, new people could have been much more overwhelming than it was, but I clutched at the couple of familiar faces I did know and made it through. This day, I was so happy to see so many students I recognized from my child’s school. Both those just entering junior high and their siblings in the upper grades. (Siblings! Which means more allies!) And it was reassuring both for both me and my new junior high student to know that so many of those students we grew up with throughout elementary school would be all together discovering this next adventure called junior high school.

Along with all of that, we parents and older siblings tried to help give tips on how to maneuver the hallways, how to pack what where, and remind the new students that they’ll only have five minutes to get to class so move it! And reassuring them that, yes, you do have to hike it from this end of the building to that, but don’t worry; you’ll make it. Because everyone, since the beginning of school all those decades ago, has had to hike/sprint/book it from one end of school/campus to the other in five minutes/three minutes/a heartbeat and make it to class. On time. Prepared. And preferably alive. And we did it! So can you! Rah rah go team!

There are still adventures in elementary school, too, this year. How fun to see that your little sweetie has the same teacher you had in elementary school, and to find out that teacher is still the exciting, smiling, exuberant teacher that you remember and that made her one of your favorites. How exciting to attend back-to-school night and see the desks piled high with papers, name tags, and goodies, the walls covered in fun posters and lists, the desks arranged just so, waiting for the students to pile in. Volunteer sheets cover the walls—parties and art and music—reminding us how exciting our child’s life in elementary school is and how lucky and welcome we are to have the chance to take part in it. I love the busy and simply fun atmosphere of elementary school where learning is a joy and thrill that happens every day with cutting and pasting, learning a new song, watching a video, and play. Life is meant to be enjoyed and filled with laughter, happy squealing, brightly colored poster boards, and recess.

The magic of a brand new school year has begun. Another season of watching your children grow, expand their minds, and share their new joys and discoveries with you. Sharing smiles with them as they travel through on their familiar, yet annually new adventures. That amazing and magical time called school which seems to last so long yet is simultaneously so fleeting. The magic and wonders of learning, the glories of childhood. Welcome back to the adventure!