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First Day of School: Welcoming Them Back

September 11, 2021

Another Way for week of Sept. 3 2021

First Day of School: Welcoming Them Back

The highschoolers spilled out of their buses and sped steadily toward their destination, the right side door of our local high school, where our own daughters once headed. Just one front door unlocked for them in a whole set of doors, and we all know why that is, right?

A few of the community citizens welcoming the high schoolers back.

It was the first day of school for these kids. A string of community leaders and well-wishers had lined up outside the doorway to greet the teenagers enthusiastically with words of welcome, best wishes, you are awesome, you can do it—along with a few printed signs with lines of encouragement. My husband and I were there through our Lions Club connections along with masked Rotary members, police officers, a state legislator, teachers and retired leaders of organizations. This kind of “welcome back” is a tradition in some communities.

The faces of the teens—behind their masks—wore expressions everywhere from resignation to excitement to boredom to glee. As a former band parent, I made sure any kids carrying band instruments got a “Yay band!” from me. Others I simply saluted with “Welcome back” and “Have a good year.”

Sample sign.

They wore torn jeans (of course) that showed parts of entire legs (except for underwear), baggy t-shirts with kosher messages. Some eyes reflected fear, dread, happiness and surely anticipation of hanging out with old friends. The freshmen among them had to be a bit scared: would they find their classrooms, would they like their teachers, would their schedules work out, would this school year work out for Pete’s sake, after the dizzying year they had lived through the year before? Last year was made up of some days at school, some at home, cancelled events and sports, rerouted buses, and parents chauffeuring many.

How did we get here? What have we been through? What else will we have to go through? Will they have to go back to two days in class, two days at home schedules?

My own toughest school experience was long ago as a new girl at a new school in the deep south for my senior year. I rode a bus for an hour each way. That year I found myself scared and bewildered at some of the name calling. I was frequently lonely, but finally made some good friends. 

As we greeted the students, I began to tear up and had trouble keeping my composure as I pondered the last 18 months—for the kids, for ourselves, for my own grandkids heading back to school, some for the first time. One was off to kindergarten in this brave new world, following slowly behind his very eager older brother. What would Henry find in a formal school setting? I remember him, at the age of four, telling his mother one day when they rode in their van in the early days of the pandemic: “Mommy, we need some masks.”

Henry following his big brother on his first day of school.

“I know,” his seamstress mommy responded. “That’s why I’m picking up some fabric today.”

Masks??? For a four-year-old? For the two-year-old? These children have learned to always play with masks on when out and about. The parents yearn for the day when their children will be able to step up for their very own shots.

The assistant principal told us later that one high schooler was asking why people were lining up to greet them as they came into school. When she understood what we were doing, she thought it was a great idea. The mother of a 14-year-old freshman responded: “Yeah, they’re [trying to act] cool, but they noticed [the community greetings].”

Later, I also learned our kindergarten grandson, Henry, was happy when the principal (it’s a nice small school) recognized who he was because he looked like his brother. “I think it made him feel like he already belonged and wasn’t a stranger,” his mother texted.

That made ME feel very good for Henry’s first day of school. May the educational adventures continue!


What was your most memorable first day of school? Good or bad?

Comment here or send stories to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Three of my four grandchildren are in high school, two of them seniors. I doubt they had such a sweet welcoming committee. The reception line greeting is a wonderful idea, which you’ll probably repeat next year. By the way, I like the words on the sample sign, very encouraging.

    The snippet of the 4-year-old and his ma is poignant.

    My memory of first day of school? I recorded it as a memoir chapter “Black Desk.” 🙂

  2. Black desk! I will go back and read it again! You are a dear for picking out the memorable and the encouraging–that’s what I like this blog to be about. Blessings on your weekend.

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