Tuesday will be the first day for students of the 2011/12 school year. For some students it will be an exciting adventure, a chance to be see old friend or meet new ones; some thing to be looked forward to. For many others school represents a huge source of anxiety.
For years I related well to the first group. I loved the first day back. School was fun and easy. I cruised through decades of first days, first as a student, then as a teacher and now as an administrator. If I had trouble sleeping the night before opening day it was the sort of sleeplessness one has before exciting occasions like Christmas. I never understood folks who lamented the end of summer like they were losing their best friend.
Until this year. This year is a little different. This year we are all starting the year under the cloud of job action, and for the first time, I have a better sense of how folks who are anxious about going to school truly feel. Let me be clear. I'm not expressing an opinion about the current state of teacher bargaining. Labor relations are what they are, and the current situation is all part of how the system works. All I'm suggesting is that this year, due to new and different circumstances, I'm more alert to the anxieties that many people feel with the annual approach of a new school year, and its unsettling, to say the least.
That the current labour situation will one day be resolved is certain. It's also a certainty that every year lots of students enter school, not with eager anticipation, but with nervous energy or even a sense of dread. As this year starts we can do a lot to ease the anxiety of others. Our education system, with all its quirks and circumstances, is one of the best in the world. As this year unfolds it's important that we support one another, both those who are looking forward to coming back and those who are more than a little anxious. Taking care to connect with others we can all accomplish great things, maybe even quiet those first day jitters and make school a better experience for everyone!