My favorite first-day-of-school outfit was a red plaid pleated skirt. To this day, that Stewart plaid is synonymous with the start of the school year, which in Minnesota is the day after Labor Day. No matter how old I get, I have visions of plaid in my head every year at this time. I clearly remember how excited I was for the first day of school, so much so that I had trouble falling asleep the night before.

I couldn’t wait to see who would be in my class. The beginning of the school year marked the resurgence of my social life after a quiet summer, and I was more than ready for it. I was eager to see my friends again. But I didn’t know that with the new class roster, my group of friends would be in a state of flux. Add to that the fickle nature of pre-pubescent girls, and I was in for a surprise.

All of a sudden, my friends from fourth grade had suddenly become cool over the summer, and alas, I was not cool enough for them now that we were in fifth grade. This mystified me because I hadn’t changed over the summer, and in my mind, they were still my friends. But in true Susie fashion, I quickly got over it and moved on to new friends, the ones who hadn’t turned cool yet.

This realignment of the school’s social structure happened every year through junior high and high school, and for some reason I just never attained cool. Instead, I hung out with the nice girls, and in hindsight, this was a much better route because they weren’t fickle. They were true friends.

In college, the night before the start of class was still exciting for me even though I wasn’t planning to wear plaid. I was going to be learning new things and meeting new people. Yet of all I learned in the 4+ years of study at the University, I remember the friends the most.

Now as a teacher of adult students learning English as a second language, I get to experience that first day of school every year. There’s still that feeling of anticipation, but instead of wondering which new friends I’ll make, I wonder which new students I’ll have. Every year there are some real friendships formed in my class, and it has occurred to me that I’ve come full circle—I’m now providing the opportunity for friendships to develop just like my classroom teachers did.

Even though I place great value on the grammar I’m teaching, I know that without a personal connection—friends—in the classroom, the students wouldn’t want to be there. You see, the most important thing I’ve learned from all my years of being educated and educating others is that school isn’t just the dissemination of information—it’s about people and the relationships formed.

Don’t think that just because you’ve completed all of your years of formal education that you’re done with school. You can still wear the proverbial plaid. Take advantage of continuing education opportunities in your profession and community education classes in your community. You just may make a new friend that way!

Note: This is was originally posted on my old website on 9/1/14 and I still feel the same!