September can be complicated.
The changing of seasons from summer to the earliest days of fall is exciting for all the colours, flavours and adventures there are in store for us, but some changes are less exciting and more worrisome… During all of our “back to school” preparations this year I was more and more aware of the challenges the season brings.
My oldest child made a big leap into the “intermediate” grades this year – teachers often say that it is the transition from the “learning to read” years into the “reading to learn” years – she will now begin to build the bank of information and knowledge that she needs to develop her own understanding of the world around her. As a teacher, I am excited for her growth and learning. As a parent I am terrified at the anxiety and emotion she is carrying with her into her new classroom. The last weeks of summer vacation were marked by regular moments of reassurance as she worked to prepare herself for the unknown… How many other little people are carrying that same mix of apprehension and excitement into the school year?
This is her self-portrait on the eve of back to school:
I see how beautiful she is in this picture, but I see the reservations she has as well – she has captured the feeling of cautious optimism perfectly… She is worried that she isn’t smart enough or fast enough for the demands of fourth grade… Her amazing talents are overshadowed by her own self-doubt.
My youngest child will be attending “real school” this year too – another milestone moment. He is excited about playing with his friends and seeing his big sister on the playground, but less thrilled about getting out of his warm bed every single day and getting into his school uniform again…
Instead of drawing himself he drew a picture of his mama and dada to keep with him. I think it’s a good likeness:
He has captured my mixed emotions about the “back to school” season…
I am looking forward to seeing my friends, colleagues and students, but at the same time I am feeling overwhelmed by the challenges that lay ahead. I am excited to take on new projects, but sad to leave the long days of summer behind… Mixed emotions. Double dip feelings.
How many children and families are feeling the same way? In our hurry to get back to school and work, how many children are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of production, performance, perfection that school creates? In this whirlwind of mixed emotions I am making an extra effort to see the colours of the season. I am making the effort to see the great promise in the children who are showing up at school every day in spite of the anxiety and adversity in they might feel. I am trying to let go of the apprehension I have about sending my own children off to school on their own to learn and grow without my constant supervision and support… In a month or two we will hardly remember these early days of fragile confidence and nervousness. I know that my little people are in good hands, just as I know that I will do my best for the students who come for help at my own classroom door. But this season of mixed emotions reminds me, more than ever, to have empathy for the families who are struggling to get all the “pieces in their places” as the “new year” takes its’ shape with all the colours of the season…
“I have always had school sickness, as others have seasickness. I cried when it was time to go back to school long after I was old enough to be ashamed of such behavior.” (Jacques Derrida)