First Impressions

Making a good first impression is critical when beginning any new enterprise, especially the first day of school.

Adam and Eve, shown here in Albrect Durer’s famous  engraving, had it so easy! There were no social expectations, no unspoken rules, no one they needed to impress. Expelled from Eden and abandoned by the Almighty, they could do… and wear… whatever they wanted! Vine leaves to-day, or maple?

Self-help”gurus” expound with how-to information about first impressions embracing everything from job interviews and first dates to just about any key event you can imagine.

Children… and teachers… have always known this instinctively about the importance of first impressions, but sometimes it is difficult to anticipate the rules. I have often had to learn this the hard way.

Moving from a convent school to a public secondary school, I greeted the home room teacher when he entered the room on the first day of school as I always had: I stood beside my desk, said “Good morning, Mr….,” and curtsied. I also stood to answer questions. WRONG!

When I began teaching, slacks were forbidden for women and men had to wear jackets and ties. Moving from secondary school to teach in a public school, I showed up the first day in a skirt, hosiery, and sensible pumps. WRONG. I did not look serious about my work, which required slacks and running shoes and a willingness to sit on the floor!

I wore a hat, the ONLY hat there, to a wedding ten years ago. When I was married fifty years ago, brides wore white. My dress had short sleeves, so I had to wear long white gloves for the ceremony.  I have  had the bad taste to wear black at a funeral where nieces and nephews of the deceased showed up wearing what looked to be worn out work clothes and T-shirts with nasty slogans.

All the rules have changed except one… you never get a second chance to make a first impression. First day of school is fraught with expectation and anxiety… not about who will be in your class, or whether you will get calculus (which cannot safely be skipped) right after lunch. It is about having “the right stuff”, and acting the right way.  Any free time, but especially lunch hour can be a make or break situation. Remember those scenes in Grease, and Twilight as the kids assemble… self-image and self-esteem challenges to the nth degree.

This video has no connection with either first day at school or first impressions. But I do remember packing four school lunches, day after day.

On my first teaching day, those fifty years ago, my room-mate Kathy offered to pack the lunches. Sitting among strangers, I opened my brown bag and discovered a very large  onion, a note, and a dollar bill. The note said, “Life is like an onion; you peel it off in layers, and sometimes it makes you cry.” The dollar  was duly spent for a cafeteria salad (shudders) but we all had a good laugh, and I met everyone at the table.

My very tall and strong son took peanut butter sandwiches every day until he graduated from high school. Every day, he would eat nothing else! In to-day’s schools, with strict bans on all known food allergens, he would starve. Or perhaps, like Mr.Bean, he would learn to make his own lunch.

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One Response to First Impressions

  1. So true!
    My daughter started teaching a week or so ago and the meeting and fitting in thing was probably her biggest worry.

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