Back to school

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, September 4, 2013

by Randy Forbes

I almost always had first-day jitters. I remember my mom walking me to the door, handing me my lunch bag, and kneeling down to kiss me on my forehead as I stepped out of the house and towards a new school year. A feeling somewhere between butterflies and knots crowded my stomach. Special first-day-of-school snacks sat tucked into the bottom of my lunch bag. As the bus pulled up and I waved goodbye, my mom would call out to me, “I am proud of you, and I love you; just do your best.”

Now as an adult, I can’t help but smile when I think back on the beginnings of a new school year. I no longer have first-day jitters (or first-day-of-school snacks tucked in my lunch bag), but I often find myself remembering fondly some of my favorite teachers, as well my mom’s wise words.

I appreciated my teachers even as a young boy, but it wasn’t until I became a parent and sent my own children to Great Bridge Elementary School, Great Bridge Middle School, and later to Great Bridge High School that I gained a deep gratitude for our nation’s teachers and what they contribute daily to our young people.

Many of us can think of an educator who helped change our trajectory or offered encouragement in a profound way. Perhaps you recall a teacher who saw potential in you even when you doubted yourself. Perhaps you remember an administrator who offered special guidance as you considered your future. Perhaps you can reflect on the commitment and tenacity of a coach who pushed you to always work your hardest. I am still grateful for the guidance of my own high school principal, Harry Blevins, who had a tremendous impact on my life when I was a student at Great Bridge High School and beyond. He was not only a good educator; he was a good role model. To this day, we remain great friends.

Abigail Adams, the second First Lady of the United States, once said, “Learning is not attained by chance – it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” I doubt my mom had Abigail Adams in mind all those years ago when she encouraged me to give the best I had, but the similarity of their statements is not lost on me. They both understood the power of education and the hard work required to grow in knowledge.

Their words remind us that educational opportunity is as deep as the commitment of those involved – teachers, administrators, and parents who are leading the charge, community leaders and public officials who make decisions about our education system, and students who are working towards their futures. Let us consider their words a challenge to us as we embark on the 2013 – 2014 school year.

To students, seek learning with commitment, zeal, and enthusiasm. Ask tough questions and explore new ideas. Get to know your teachers. They are everyday heroes and they care greatly about you. To teachers, attend to the offering of knowledge with persistence. Know that your resolve and devotion are noticed. We are grateful for you. To parents, stay involved in your children’s education. Ask questions and set expectations. Your diligence contributes to your children’s success.

As we embark on the final days of summer and children all across the Commonwealth slip on their backpacks, grab their lunches, kiss their parents goodbye and head to school, let us remember all of those individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. Let us remember the ardor and diligence required to give the best we have.

U.S. Rep. RANDY FORBES, R-Va., represents Western Tidewater in the U.S. House of Representatives. His e-mail address is