School is back in session for teachers, students

Published 7:06 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

Well, by now the bell should have rang to start the first day of another school year. Without a doubt, the first day was always my favorite day of the year. I think if there hadn’t been the other 179, I might have taught forever.

On that first day, everybody is a “Teacher of the Year” candidate, and things are looking up. It probably stays that way until, maybe, the third day when you go home thinking you’ve just been nominated for the Worst Teacher of the Year. But don’t worry: You never have two really bad days in a row. You may have been the worst teacher of the day, but not for the year. Not yet.

One thing I always liked about the first day of school is that optimism reigns. I walked into the classroom somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 times, always with a “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.” And I never meant it more than I did on those 28 first days. I liked the first day so much I usually by-passed the rule ceremony, and just said, “You know the rules: Sit down, be quiet, and if you need to go to the bathroom do it later. That’ll do.”

With those temporary rules out of the way, I could proceed with what I really wanted to share with young people on the first day: a poem. That’s right, if starting back to school wasn’t bad enough, the kids had to endure a poem 15 minutes after summer ended. But it wasn’t just any poem. It is a poem I found one summer in a Gatlinburg gift shop, called “The Optimist,” by “Pek” Gunn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee.

I could quote it with my eyes closed, because I quoted it all day every first day of school for at least 20 years. It goes like this:

“I passed a sand lot yesterday, Some kids were playing ball. I strolled along the third baseline, Within the fielder’s call.

“’Say, what’s the score?’ I asked the chap, He yelled to beat the stuffin’,

“‘There’s no one out, the bases full, And they’re forty-two to nuthin’!

“’You’re gettin’ beat, aren’t you my lad?’ And then in no time flat, He answered:

“’No sir, not as yet! Our side ain’t been to bat!’”

Now, I am sure that every teacher knows all too well the feeling of crawling into your front door after a hard, rugged day of school, looking as if you’ve just lost that day’s debacle 42 – 0.

That, my friends, is the nature of walking into the classroom. You don’t know when you walk in the door in the mornings if you’re going to walk out or have to be rolled out in a wheelchair. Some days can be that rough.

So, when that day comes – and, sorry to say, it may be tomorrow – remember the words of our young hero who anchored left field on that old sandlot playground. You didn’t get beat that day, the wheelchair notwithstanding. Oh, it may have been kind of a below-par day. You might not have set the world on fire, or maintained your dignity. But you’re not worried.

Should some sympathizer walk up to you, and say with a wry smile, “Looks like you had kind of a bad day.”

You don’t hesitate, and you don’t flinch. Look him in the eye and say,

“No sir, not as yet! Our side ain’t ev’n been to bat!”