Swing Low, First Day of School

“Pray for me…” I moaned.

Katie looked at me with contempt.

“I can’t move.” My voice was an elderly whisper.

Katie’s eyes rolled around in their sockets.

“It’s time to put me down.” A death wail.

I had collapsed on the couch. My bones ached. My joints whined. I was finished. This body had served me well. Well, kinda well.

“Swing low,” I gasped, “sweet chariot. A’comin’ for to carry Sam home. Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry Sam home.”

Katie got up and left the room. This was an appropriate response.


The first day of school always takes its toll. Especially on me. Especially as a teacher. But August 24th, 2021 was a doozy.

Maybe it’s the pandemic. I haven’t been in a classroom with students for nearly two years. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m 41 now. I don’t have the energy I used to. Gray hairs and whatnot. Whatever it was, the first day of class was something else. I had very little left to give when I got home.

The first day of school happened for my boys as well. Solomon is in 2nd grade. Samson in 1st. We picked them up from school soon after I got home from THEEEEEE Pennsylvania State University (ALTOOOOOOONA! campus).

Did they have fun their first day? Of course. Did Samson wander away from the designated pick-up area to the very busy street in front of the school, looking for us at pick-up time? He sure did. Did I send an email to his teacher asking why the hell that happened? You’re darned tootin’. But we all survived.

I hate the phrase darned tootin’. And I’m not sure why I’m asking so many questions. I’m out of sorts. Here’s one more question:

Did I get to relax after we brought the boys home?

Funny question, that. You see, Solomon and Samson are angels in school. Great listeners. Polite. Respectful. They always come home covered in penguin stickers. A penguin sticker is what you get at their elementary school when you are a great listener. When you are polite and respectful. Well, all that great and polite and respectful listening takes its toll on my offspring. It requires the boys to repress the chaos of their souls. Tanners have lots of chaos in our souls. So Solomon and Samson didn’t collapse on the couch when they get home from school on August 24th, 2021. Instead, they let loose.

Screaming. Running. Fighting. Howling. It’s like an asylum around here. I cover my ears and shout to the heavens.

I always am tired after a day of teaching. But this fall is something else. Swing low, indeed.


Who can say what this year will bring? The pandemic is still a pandemic. This country has enough polarization to beat the band. Vaccines or no vaccines or this life matters or that. Scream and fight and tweet and scream again. Take my political divisions, please!

I’m still kicking. Making my way from classroom to classroom. From this circle of people to that. Sharing my thoughts. My soul, too. Putting my pedagogy into play. I’m all about peace through pedagogy, baby. Even if channeling the energy of others wipes me out. Even if I return home to the chaos of my beautiful children.

In another lifetime, I’d return from the first day of school and collapse in a quiet apartment. Disrobe. Fire up my Playstation 2 and play Final Fantasy until the cows came home. The cows never came home. I lived in Uptown, Minneapolis. No cows there, I’m afraid.

That introverted time in my life is gone. So now I just try and keep up. A family man, and happy to be one. Adulthood, my friend, is many things. But one of those things is this: Exhausting.

Swing low, my friend. Swing very low.

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