Turning the Page on a New Year
New Year’s Day for those of us who have spent our lives in schools is NOT January 1. It’s the first day of school. The fresh page. The blank slate. The aisles of school supply sales at Target. The clean classroom. The empty plan book. Each year, as educators, we have this one great, gigantic, glorious restart on the work we have given our lives to. What a gift. And this time approaching it…well, it’s the time when we ponder how to do it all again but even better this time around. The time when all things are possible, all lessons fit perfectly into the time we imagine they will take, all students come ready and willing before real people embody the ideal image we have of them…the time right before we roll up our sleeves and get to work to build messy, imperfect, achingly human relationships we will never forget.
In this beautiful crystal-clear space of waning lazy summer days, I can clearly imagine the perfect ten months ahead. A year in which I will flawlessly execute my ideal school year. A year in which I will be the teacher I dream of being. It is always possible once again as I stand at this point ready to begin. Year after year, I can imagine who I want to be and take aim once more before I set out on my work with students–all of whom will walk through the door with high hopes that THIS year will be great.
My profession offers this amazing annual “do over” unlike any other. As I stand here on the eve of “one more time” for the 29th time in my life, I am as excited as I’ve ever been and grateful for that wellspring of eagerness to get started that comes “free with purchase” upon choosing to teach.
The rhythms of a school year are perpetual and as familiar as old friends. As “Back to School” kicks off, I recognize happily the sights, smells, and feelings that come with it over and over again–crisp class lists with names of people I hope to love, neat stacks of materials, bright smell of Fantastic and Febreze in my room, long droning faculty meetings packed with reminders, new pens and markers, the themed bulletin boards we got inspired for somewhere last week with school closing in. I know these feelings. I have stood many times in this place and felt these rhythms start up again. I know they’ll be followed by the autumn sunshine of September afternoons that call to us to stay outdoors at recess just a little longer than planned, the slow turning of October leaves as I stand on afternoon bus duty, the gray skies of November that make us almost glad to be indoors learning together, the first snowflakes swirling lazily outside my windows which kids will greet with all the excitement of people who’ve never seen one before in ways that derail a lesson completely (and that we gracefully surrender to because they remind you that you, too, are excited to greet the snow), the fevered expectations of the holidays through children’s eyes, the dark January mornings when you struggle to find lessons that will make all of you engage and count on coffee to get you through first period, the February carnations delivered by the Student Council that poignantly remind you of the despair of being friendless, the melting muddy footprints in the hallways of March, the countdown to Spring Break, the weak April sunshine that you greet with joy and dawning realization that learning IS happening, the frenzy of May’s “end of year” events and the “only fifteen more days” reminders of summer on the rise, and the bittersweet realization that time is almost out on this year in the community you built back in August. We wave good-bye excitedly as the buses roll on the last afternoon of the last day and go back to pick up a classroom that holds only echoes, memories, and a couple of notes from kids who want you to know you made a difference to them. One more year is done. One perfectly imperfect amazing year of unexpected moments and challenges, students we learned to love or help, differences made in small and life-altering ways.
THAT is what begins here in a few days, and I cannot WAIT to get started just one more time. I love it. I love it all. We are the luckiest people in the world to get to teach.