I work with a group of select seniors from eleven comprehensive high schools who want to complete their senior year out at the local junior college. All must go through an application and interview process. Their GPAs can range from 2.0 to 4.whatever. What they have in common is a motivation to get ahead.
Because the college requires fewer attendance days, we must have our students begin our designated three high school classes (that only they are in) two weeks prior to the start of the college classes. This is the First day one I experience. Though some of the kids have a friend or two apply for the program as well, most are on their own. Their friends are at still at the high school. Some are the only ones from their entire school to apply. Therefore, there are a lot of nervous and scared but excited students on this first day. They look around and wonder why they did what they did and what did they get themselves into? It is a huge step for them. We work very hard that first day to start getting them acquainted with each other, the college campus and its personnel, and both their course work and the information that will help them be successful in college.
At the end of those two weeks, they are feeling pretty good about themselves. They have already made new friends and have learned that we aren’t that scary. In short, they aren’t petrified any more. Then the second First Day arrives. College classes start. Two things happen on this day. First (and this happens every year), one of us will walk into our 8 am class and, low and behold, there is a student we have never seen before. Our students are just sitting there, looking straight ahead, and waiting. They have no idea what to do with a stranger in their midst.
The mystery is solved very easily by taking the “new” student outside and asking what class he or she was looking for. This year, it was a young man looking for his psychology class, which was indeed in that room but an hour and a half later! Occasionally some are a whole day early! Other college students just barge in while you’re teaching, not thinking that there might be a class already in session. In between classes one sees college students as lost as high school freshmen are on their first day.
The second thing that happens on this second first day is that our kids see that anxiety and excitement have no age limit. A first day at something is a first day. They are also the ones who end up helping these lost souls. We will look out of our office doors to see our students answering questions and helping others find their way around the campus as if they were old pros.
Most of us have had a lot of First Days in our lives but have probably forgotten the trepidation and excitement that goes with it. But the nice thing about First Days is that they require a step of faith, result in growth, and develop new comfort zones. So . . . may we continue to seek out and have First Days in our lives.