On the First Day of School

I love the first day of school; I have always loved the first day of school. Sure, I love the ritual of it all – and of course, the new school supplies – but I think what I really love is all the possibilities that come with each back-to-school beginning. Even more so than New Year’s Eve, I love that August also provides us with an opportunity to make bold changes in our lives; that we have another chance to create and grow our identities this school year. I love that we are not the same people we were on the last day of school in June, even though it seems like not much time has passed. Summer changes us; it is a time to step away from the intensity of the work that we do and – whether consciously or unconsciously- take stock of all that happened to us in the course of the school year. The summer gives us a chance to own a new version of ourselves, polish it, refine it, and present it to the world at the beginning of the next school year. Maybe your personal changes render you unrecognizable to previous versions of who you have been, or maybe your transformation has been more subtle. Whoever you are right now,  know that you belong. 

Two different August newsletters I received shared similar reflection questions on this idea of how we have changed in our time away.  Jennifer Abrams, a previous Spotlight podcast guest, offers some questions for those who have a bit more clarity on their transformation.  Of the five in her recent Voice Lessons post, these three resonate with me the most: 

  • How have you changed since we finished our last school year?
  • What surprises you about how you are seeing the world these days?
  • How might I have to ‘update’ the way I make sense of you?

What I love about these questions is that they are informative for our colleagues in a way that nurtures psychological safety.  The answers are a way to gently say, ‘you know that version of me that lives in your head? Let me help update that story.”  Give yourself permission to fully embrace who you are in this moment, and show your colleagues how much you value your relationship with them by respecting them enough to share your transformation. 

For those of us who might not be as certain about who we are right now but know we are ready for something different, Elena Aguilar of Bright Morning shared these questions.  After considering the possibilities, she asks:

  • What do you need to believe in order to be that person?
  • What do you want to do or learn in order to be that person?

What inspires me about these questions is the call to action.  They first ask us to get clear on what beliefs are guiding our transformation, and then we need to actually do the work to step into this new version of ourselves.  All of this aligns beautifully with a post from Steve Barkley, in which he shares an idea from Tom Guskey that “experience shapes teachers’ attitudes and beliefs (not the other way around.)”  Maybe you haven’t identified what beliefs are shifting for you yet as you enter this new school year, so I invite you to be open to new experiences that may give some insight into what is possible for you. 

Of course, all of this is also true for our students – neither are they the same humans they were in June. Enjoy them for who they are today, without any preconceived notions of what you may have heard or observed in the past.  Encourage them to see the possibilities the new year holds for them, too. This, to me, is the most important aspect of the work we do. Thank you, Dear Educator, for your contributions to our greater humanity. 

About the author

With more than two decades of experience in education around the globe, Kristen Moreland is committed to bringing humanity back to education. A former middle school English teacher and Instructional Coach, she is currently serving as the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Littleton Schools in Littleton, New Hampshire. She joined the NHASCD board in February, 2022. You can follow her on Twitter @kmorekin and on Instagram @educatorsforhumanity