Every Labour day long weekend, students and education professionals all around North America nervously anticipate the start of a new school year. For many of them, this is the REAL New Year (not January 1st-see Chris Kennedy's blog post "Happy New Year"). For as long as I can remember, I also eagerly looked forward to the start of school, often times with great trepidation. Who will be my teacher(s)? What did my friends do during the summer? Are there any new students to the school? Who will be coaching or trying out for the basketball team?
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Like most years, I was in the school over the weekend, putting together some last minute preparations for Tuesday morning. While there I saw scores of students showing up at the front window, checking to see which homeroom they had been assigned. All of them seemed genuinely excited, and a little bit nervous (especially the Grade 8's). I spoke with several of them, tried to ease their anxiety, and welcomed them back for another year of school.
A great deal has been written and discussed about the need for reform in education today, and I agree with much of it. I have always felt, however, that the strongest reason for schools existing in the form they continue to is the social element. Students need to be able to come together, share stories and ideas, learn from one another and engage in the most human of activities, interacting with others. Seeing students gather to share their excitement and support one another, I was reminded that school is the ideal place for this. While we do have many issues we need to address and improve within public education, our strengths, including providing a safe place for human interaction, have never been more important or better offered.
Like the students, I get excited and anxious with the start of every year. This year, I may feel this way even more than usual. As I have written previously, I am beginning a new role and have assumed the responsibility of Principal of Burnett Secondary. The unfamiliarity I have with the role, the greater responsibility and the additional complicating factor of job action facing the BC education system this year as teachers enter contract negotiations, add to my anxiety. But despite all the uncertainties, I am extremely excited and very much looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. I think that most students feel the same way. They are unsure of what the future will bring, worried about making the right impressions on their friends and teachers and feeling the pressure that seems to escalate with every year of school. This anxiousness can be overwhelming, but is not necessarily a negative. It signifies a chance to start again, to recreate one's reputation or image and a little discomfort reminds us that we are growing and challenging ourselves. I relish that feeling and hope that our students appreciate it for the same reasons I do.
Of course, no one describes the experience of the first day of school better than the folks at "Sesame Street"...
So, to the students and staff of J.N. Burnett,
Have a great year!!!