Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Fresh Starts and Cautious Optimism
One of the things I love about being a teacher is the fall (in most years the late summer). Each fall we get to start fresh. Last year's old, scuffed layers of wax and grime get stripped away, scrubbed clean, and replaced with a brand new, shinny, ding-free coat. It smells great. It looks great, and it feels protected and inviting. Every year I look forward to the moment I make my first entrance into the school--usually a week or two before I am required to be there (despite popular myths about us teacher-types). The halls are cool, dark, and quiet. The floors are shinny and new. The smell of optimistic anticipation floats happily in the air. Everything feels fresh and new. It's a great moment-- one of my favorites each year.
As it is with a lot of school districts around our nation, last year's coat of wax wasn't so great. It seemed to go from bad to worse, and then to non-existent in a very short amount of time. It left many of us feeling scuffed, dinged, and way too exposed to the heavy foot traffic from above. We watched as some were scratched to the core despite our gallant efforts to prevent it. It was bad. I'd rather not repeat it again.
When we flooded the district auditorium for our annual first day teachers' meeting yesterday, things felt better. They felt fresh and new again. The floors were scrubbed, buffed, and re-waxed. Most of last year's dings and scuffs had been fixed in the summer cleaning; however, there are still some deep scratches that didn't quite buff out. Yesterday the deep scratches were not so noticeable. Today they were much more apparent. It was hard to look, but impossible not to. It wasn't pleasant to be reminded of how and why those scratches got there in the first place. Yesterday it was easy to forget; today it was not.
And so I'm faced with a choice. We all are. How much do we remember? How much do we forget?
Every school year our floors get scuffed and dinged, and every summer our custodians do their best to restore them back to shinny new with the cautious hope that a new strategy and fresh wax will protect the floors better than the year before. It's a process. It's predictable. It's comforting. This year I choose to hope like our custodians. Despite last year's damage, I will enter this year with new hope and fresh wisdom. It's a cautious hope, but an optimistic one. (What's the point if it weren't?) It's fresh wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless. Until the trust is restored, it would be foolish to have anything less or anything more.
How much will I forget? This will depend on how much I can forget and still meet the goal.