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School starts

After teaching mathematics from 1964 onward at various colleges, universities, and academies there is an acquired biorhythm that is hard to suppress once the required ritual of school starts ends. However, it is not a biorhythm I wish to suppress. Rather I like the feeling, but without the responsibilities. I miss the excitement, but I do not miss the pre-school meetings and prep gatherings.

I always looked forward to greeting students, especially entering students. First day of class in mathematics means grabbing students' attention with a mathematical activity, task, challenge, or engagement which gets their minds into the subject. Most important, it means making new friends with students, often for life, just because we studied applications of derivatives, or matrices, or differential equations, or cryptology. The subject brought our minds together and what followed was our friendship. We would meet in the office, in the campus soda shop, on the walk ways, at campus events, while watching sporting events - some in which they were participating, at our home for dinner or light evening of music and just relaxing at the end of week; building those ties that held the potential for long friendships.

First day of school also means re-meeting colleagues, greeting new faculty to the school and making them comfortable for success in their new venture. It meant the coolness of fall would soon be upon us and the leaves would turn color and then fall or vice-versa. It meant our children would begin their learning venture and my wife would know the change of season by the quietness in the house during the day.

Most important, first day of school was the personal and mental spring time of my year, each and every year, when new blooms and ideas emerged, when light shone on new ideas for teaching and learning, and when I was energized by young students. Students never grow old, they just change faces and they always got better, always!

I miss the formal first day of school, certainly since my mother always took a picture of me on the front porch in our house which was three doors down from PS 121 in Richmond Hill, Queens New York City. Me in my my sweater and tie (it was 1948 when it all started for me) and my school supplies ready to go. And while I miss the formality of that first day I have the memories of all those first days - elementary school, junior high, senior high, college, university, academy. That is sufficient for this time in my life as is the news from colleagues who are still actively teaching and experiencing the one in many of their first day of school. Ah yes.

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  1. Brian Winkel

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