What used to be post-Labor Day is now as early as the last day of July, or the middle of August.
The start of another school year.
Kids scuff their toes in the now-withering summer grass, and answer the age-old question, ‘Are you ready to go back to school?’ with eye rolls, heavy sighs, and just the right touch of disdainful inevitability in their “I guess.’
And off they go. By sidewalk, by bus, by car, by swagger wagon, by the hundreds of thousands. The kids are back at school. So is this teacher.
The teaching profession is one that permits — no, encourages — wait — demands a yearly ‘fresh start.’ A chance to do it again, only better. So satisfying and encouraging!! Say what you will about ‘the test,’ the regimented PD, PLCs, data-mining, behavior mods, assessments, technology, administrative bureaucracy, educational plans — and oh!, so much could be (and should be!) said about these things — but still, that’s not why good teachers shine up their shoes, and stride purposefully back into their classrooms each year. (I do suspect that those very things prompt some teachers to rethink their professional commitment. Worse, a teacher shortage exists. There’s a thing that had better make you go, ‘hmmmmm.’ But that’s another post, for another time.)
What keeps those educators coming back is an aphrodisiacal blend of ‘‘bouquets of newly sharpened pencils’, the world of ideas and creativity and words that matter, the potential of it all. Teachers are some of the best learners I’ve ever met. They change lives. Teachers see opportunity and make the most of it. They consider new ways to engage distracted students. They discuss ‘best practices’ to sharpen students’ skills and encourage their critical thinking. Teachers teach. It’s a heady responsibility, a total energy drain, a kick in the pants and a shot in the arm. Usually before lunch.
Lest you think otherwise, before the new school term commences, teachers are polishing up their own skills, thinking critically through learning goals, gearing up for the onslaught of professional demands and student needs. Teachers who in May and June were hanging on to their tempers and their sanity by tenuous threads are ready, ‘once again,’ to plunge ‘unto the breach.’ (no post that’s worthy of an English teacher’s time can be void of Shakespeare, after all.) And here’s the thing: they’re glad about it! They go willingly! Oh sure, there’s a bit of eye rolling and the occasional heavy sigh. But really, that’s mere stage craft. They can’t wait to begin again. Fresh pencils, fresh ideas, fresh faces in their classrooms. Impossible to resist. Learning. It’s what teachers work for.
I’ve gone ‘unto the breach’ again myself this new school year. Back to the high school English classroom where it seems I belong. I don’t quite get it. I thought I’d retired.
Something about that ‘fresh start’ I expect. Old things, made new.