The Friendswood ISD school year officially began on Aug. 15. For each person, the first day of school is a special experience, so today we would like you to hear the stories of four different people through their own unique perspectives.
The first day of school through the eyes of….
This morning, Brittani Parker, a Friendswood Junior High science teacher, woke up with butterflies in her stomach as the nerves hit her for the start of school. She got ready and made her way to FJH in hopes the new year would be a great one. When she walked through the halls, her nerves only got worse as it really hit her today was the first day of school in a new district. She previously taught at League City Intermediate for three years, but came to Friendswood knowing it would be a great place for her to work.
Once she reached her classroom, Parker settled in and tried to collect her thoughts.
“I want to make a good impression on the kids,” Parker said. “I’m really excited, but also a little bit nervous. You can go 20 years of being a teacher and you’re still going to be nervous on the first day of school because you’re going to meet 130-something new kids.”
She had to face her fears as students began arriving to class. She greeted them at the door and her butterflies slowly dwindled. As they entered, she thought about what would be the most challenging issue she would face this school year.
“The most challenging part about teaching is not being able to connect with all of the students,” Parker said. “Just like in real life, you’re not going to be able to be friends with everyone, so just finding that one thing that you can connect with that one kid on can be really complicated sometimes.”
After all of the students made it in, she stood in front of the class and introduced herself, though she made it a point not to talk too much. She is a self-described introvert, so she stayed true to who she is.
“I’m always just myself,” Parker said. “I’m not one of those stern, sit-in-your-seats-and-don’t-speak-a-word type of teacher, so that helps them feel more welcome and less like a subordinate to me. I don’t want to make them feel like they’re lower than me and I feel like that helps a lot with our relationships.”
She wanted her students to feel comfortable, so instead of going over the syllabus, she had her students warm up with a name game. As they stood in front of her, Parker was reminded of why she loves teaching and her nerves went away.
“It’s not even about the curriculum for me,” Parker said. “I love making relationships with all of the kids. I may become a really important person to them even though they may not realize it yet. As a teacher, you play a big role in their life and you make a big difference. Sometimes they don’t have that person at home, so I can be that person at school for them.”
Above all, Parker said she wants to make her students feel safe and confident.
“With everything that has gone on lately, my biggest hope is to make the students feel safe in my classroom and in the school. It’s a different world we’re living in right now, but when the students feel safe, then they can be friends with everyone in the classroom and in the school, and they can learn even if it’s not their favorite subject,” Parker said. “I also want them to be prouder of themselves. A lot of them talk down on themselves, so I want to help make them their own cheerleader.”
Parker has big plans for dissections and chemistry labs this coming year, but for now, she is just trying to take things day by day, noting the first day of school is always one of the most exhausting days of the year.
“When the last class leaves, I will desperately search for caffeine and chocolate, set up for tomorrow, go home and pass out on the couch,” Parker said.
A bus driver
Before the sun was visible in the sky, Sherry Weiss, a FISD bus driver, was already awake, cleaned-up, equipped with her daily Sonic drink and at work. She showed up to the Bus Barn early to prepare herself for the coming day. She went out and did her pre-trip brake test, then popped back into the building to take care of last minute details.
Weiss said the first day of school is always a special day for her and the other bus drivers.
“We love the first day of school,” Weiss said. “It’s high energy. We’re refreshed, we feel great from resting up over the summer and we are prepared.”
Prepared they were. For five days prior to the start of school, the drivers went out and practiced going through their new routes.
“People were surprised to see us out on the roads so early because they’re not use to seeing us out practicing with our lights and stopping procedures even though we did not have any kids yet,” Weiss said.
Seeing as there was no more time to practice, Weiss hopped in her bus and started her new journey for the 2018-2019 school year. This year, Weiss hosted Superintendent Thad Roher as he continued the FISD first day of school tradition of riding along in one of the buses on its route. As she drove, Weiss told Roher about how she makes a special effort to get to know each of her riders.
“The first day is the beginning of building trust and relationships with the students. The first thing I do is let them know what I expect from them and what they should expect from me, which is respect,” Weiss said, pulling up to her first stop.
She smiled as she recalled memories from years past.
“I know every student’s name, I know every parent’s name, I know everyone’s pets’ names,” Weiss laughed. “I treat them as my own because they are one of my own. I only have three children with my husband, but I have hundreds of kids who are mine.”
With that, she opened her door and welcomed the first of her two riders for the day, noting she always has less riders on the first day. She smiled at the young girl, shook her hand and asked her a few get-to-know-you questions. With a large grin, Weiss watched as the student walked down the aisle and found her seat in the middle of the bus.
“The 2018-2019 school year is going to be awesome,” Weiss said.
Amanda Ford, mother of a Westwood Elementary kindergartner, woke up this morning knowing today was a special day. Today was the day her son Augustus would be starting kindergarten. She woke him up and helped him get ready as she knew he had a long, exciting day ahead of him.
When they first walked into Westwood Elementary, they noticed all of the other children and families who were there. They saw some students having their picture taken, others were already beginning to line up in the gym, some were getting high-fives from teachers and administrators and a few even received mustang-shaped pencils from Superintendent Roher. There was a lot of energy in the air as they made their way to Augustus’ new classroom.
His teacher, Olivia Scarcella, went straight into teacher mode as she kindly instructed the new students and parents on where to hang backpacks and where to put their sweaters. Ford listened intently and helped her son follow the instructions he was given, hoping he would start the day off great and maybe make some new friends.
“He’s really excited to interact with other kids his age,” Ford said. “This is the type of place where he has friends in first grade, second grade and pre-K. There isn’t as much separation of ‘you can’t be friends with someone just because they’re older and younger,’ and I think that has a lot to do with the community feel here.”
As a resident of Friendswood, Ford said she believes the community and District are special places, and she’s glad her children are able to grow up here.
“Friendswood is an amazing community where people support each other everywhere and the District has done a great job with not just teaching students about academics, but also teaching them about character. It’s a huge push in our schools and community and I love that,” Ford said.
As the announcement for parents to give their students one more hug goodbye rang overhead, Ford gave her little man one last squeeze and knew this was a milestone in his life.
“I’m excited for my son to get opportunities here that he wouldn’t get at home like music class, art class and P.E.,” Ford said. “I hope this school year helps him learn to read and become more well-rounded.”
Ford and Augustus smiled and waved as they parted ways. In the hall, Ford noticed not everyone shared the same ease. She watched as some students clung to their parents’ legs and some mammas wiped tears from their eyes as the exited the building. She felt bad for them, but could not relate to their struggle.
“I think for some people who are home with their kids all the time and have never had any type of separation, this could be a sad day, but we’re excited. I’m happy for him,” Ford said. With that, Ford left and could not wait for the end of the day when she could hear all about Augustus’ first day of school.
With the rise of a new school year upon him, Ben McAndrews decided he too would rise to the occasion of the first of day of senior year. McAndrews knew this would be his last first day of school as a FHS Mustang, so he wanted to make it special. Being the Student Body President and a member of Link Crew, McAndrews had many responsibilities which prevented him from sleeping in until noon like the rest of the upperclassmen.
McAndrews awoke at 5:30 a.m. feeling excited to see all of his friends who he had not been able to see over the summer, but unlike most first days of school, McAndrew had a responsibility to the senior class to organize the tradition of the Senior Sunrise. He arrived at the school and as he walked across the football field, he noticed dew still on the ground before the light was ever able to reflect upon it. The sun had not yet kissed the sky, but as McAndrews breathed in the humid air, he felt as though the new beginning had already set in. It was then he was overcome with the significance of this particular first day of school.
“I’m excited, but it’s bittersweet because I’ll have my last basketball season and it will be the last time together before everyone goes off to college,” McAndrews said.
When Senior Sunrise was done, McAndrews went inside FHS to serve his role with the Link Crew of helping the incoming freshmen find their way around the campus. He helped guide some of the newbies to their classes and made an extra effort to show them kindness.
“As a senior, you’re the oldest. People see what you’re doing and how the seniors act, so I feel like it’s important to set an example,” McAndrews said.
After his time helping the freshmen, it was time for McAndrews to get his own school day started. With the upperclassmen coming in halfway through the day, McAndrews was happy to see many faces he had not seen in a while.
“I’m excited. I’m a big extrovert, so I like to see all of my friends who I haven’t gotten to see since the end of the school year,” McAndrews said. “On the first day of school, everyone is pretty excited just to see each other and see who is in our classes. We get to see who we’ll spend the year with.”
McAndrews was excited to see his teachers and coaches as well.
“The relationships between teachers and students are really special here,” McAndrews said. “I have teachers, and coaches especially, who I am good friends with, and I know most students here probably have at least one or two teachers they have good relationships with.”
It is those good relationships where McAndrews said he finds his inspiration to be a good person with good character.
“I want to be a good friend. I want to meet new people and not be a senior jerk. I want to be trustworthy,” McAndrews said.
McAndrews plans on implementing these values until the day the sun sets on his time at Friendswood High School, but for now, he is just taking everything one day at a time.