This is a photo of my older sister and me, first day of school, Thomasville, North Carolina. I get this feeling every fall. I want to sharpen my pencils, pack my plaid book bag and wear a spiffy new plaid dress with a fancy color. I call it the “plaid feeling.” It is a nice coincidence that we have a UNCG official plaid (tartan).
Yes, we have had many changes in the past year—academic realignment, academic program review, severe budget cuts, and the loss of some of our students and faculty in HHS. But this is a time of renewal and excitement. In what other job do you have the opportunity to start over each fall? Education, higher education in particular, is so exciting with the arrival of new students, the frenzy of activity by those in Student Affairs, and the arrival of new colleagues on our faculty and staff. I remember being new at UNCG, in 1973, as a new graduate student. In 2003, as a new department chair. In 2007, as an interim dean. In 2011 again, as an interim dean. In all of those situations the feeling was the same—will the other kids like me? Will I be smart enough? Will the teacher (fill in chair, dean, provost, etc.) be mean? Will I sit next to/play with nice fun people? Will I know how to find the bathroom and the lunchroom? Will I have the right “stuff” in my book bag? This week/month, if you know faculty or staff who are new, remember that they probably feel this way now.Know the feeling? I still remember that day at Colonial Drive Elementary School. When I began school, North Carolina did not have kindergarten in the public schools, so my first day was the first grade. Thomasville was a “mill town” at that time—furniture and cotton. A very small number of children had the privilege of going to private or religious preschool or kindergarten, but many came to school unprepared. When the teacher talked about letters or numbers that day, I saw several children begin to cry. They were not ready. When she gave us the “Dick and Jane” books to look at, many children could not decipher anything. At UNCG, I hope we do not have that on the college scale today, but we know that some of our first year students are not as prepared as we would like. Let’s not blame the teachers or parents who came before us, but be resolved to find the people on campus who can help us with any problems that students may have in the classroom (and outside). See http://undergraduate.uncg.edu/students/ and http://success.uncg.edu/ as well as our own Bill Johnson and Jennifer Clark, http://www.uncg.edu/hhs/student-advising-center.html and http://www.uncg.edu/hhp/ssc/index.html .
Another challenge we had in Thomasville is that it was (and still is), since 1885, the home of Mills Home, of the Baptist Children’s Homes of NC. Children who were orphans or in group foster care were housed at Mills Home in cottages and eventually they entered the public schools. So, we had children with the social/psychological issues surrounding losing a parent, disruptive life changes, etc. and that was reflected in school. But I saw wonderful, loving, teachers and staff surround those children with support and we were all encouraged to include them in our lives and help them feel welcome. At the higher ed level we have students here with personal challenges and they bring them to college. I know you do all that you can in your classrooms, labs, clinics, research projects and student organizations to help everyone be included.. We have good resources here on campus to join in that effort, such as http://studenthealth.uncg.edu/wellness/ and http://studenthealth.uncg.edu/ http://studenthealth.uncg.edu/ctc/
Finally, I hope that you, as faculty and staff, can have the plaid feeling and portray it to our students, in and outside of HHS. I know they will feel more welcome and I hope you will be filled with the excitement of BACK TO SCHOOL.
See you at the HHS Convocation, Wed., August 15 and see our Alumni Board on Monday, August 13! See many of you at your department and student organization meetings. Wear plaid!!