Each morning I begin my day by reading Robin Sharma. A few days ago, this was his entry: “Most people live as if they have all the time in the world. They wish they had more time in their days and yet they waste the time they have. They put off living until some event in the future occurs. In order to awaken to your best life, every day should be lived as if it were your last day on the planet.”
Tomorrow I am leaving on vacation. Yes, I realize it is September. Yes, I know it is the busiest month of the school year. And yes, I have struggled with going away for a week knowing the realities of school life. Yet when I read that passage by Sharma, I gave myself permission to go and enjoy.
My father was diagnosed with MS at about my age. Those grand plans he saved for retirement, never came to fruition. He was forced to stop working, forced to abandon his future dreams, forced to live life without the luxury of movement. We watched as his health declined and he became quadriplegic. He never did get to Europe or Mexico or Asia, though I know he wanted to.
So, I am boarding that plane tomorrow morning without regret. I will enjoy my days as if they were my last. Because really, we just don’t know what the future holds. I will live my life today.
Our principal’s favourite word this year is emerge.
Flour, sugar, butter, eggs and chocolate chips come together to make cookies, musicians play their individual instruments to create a musical masterpiece and a farmer plants seeds in anticipation of the crop that will emerge come harvest. In all examples of emergence, there are factors both within and outside our control.
Already this year I have witnessed emergence in unexpected ways. Most significantly, a little boy, lost in two years of despair after the death of his mother, emerged this week with hope. How? Seemingly many factors contributed: the new school year provided an opportunity for a new beginning, a teacher took the time to let him talk and write about his mother, new classmates reached out in concern and significant time has passed since the tragic loss of his mother. Despite our efforts during the last few years, hope eluded him until this week. Slowly he seems to be emerging from the grips of grief.
Though a farmer knows that draught or hail can irreversibly damage the crops, he does not leave his crop to chance. He carefully controls and manipulates the seed, soil and irrigation and tends to the crop for months on end hoping that what emerges is plentiful. As educators, we cannot leave our classroom environment or our students’ learning to chance. We must plan, monitor and adjust all that is in our control. Only then will the yield be considerable. Only then will greatness emerge.
Whew… we did it. We survived the first week! Our school was filled with children once again, the very reason we go to work each day. And what is it that children bring into school? Pure joy.
I was privy to delightful exclamations of joy this week. Everything from the little boy who exclaimed, “Guess what? I got a new water bottle!” to the little girls who entered the office, black garbage bag in hand, thrusting it into the air announcing, “We cleaned up the world!”
We depend on those children who walk through our doors each day. Without them, we could not do what we do. Fortunately, the challenges they bring are balanced by their exuberance and genuine love of life. If only I could be as exuberant about a new water bottle or picking up garbage! Children are wonderful reminders to find joy in the little things…
The new school year officially begins on Tuesday morning. There are likely a few butterflies floating around. Perhaps some difficulty falling asleep too. And not just for the students. As a teacher, I remember making extensive lists to ensure I talked about everything I intended to on the first day. I remember scanning my class list to ensure I made immediate connections with those students most in need of connections. I remember mentally rehearsing my morning welcome to ensure I set the right tone. All this in excited, nervous anticipation of the year ahead.
And our students? How are they feeling on the eve of a new school year? They are likely a little apprehensive about who their teacher might be, excited to see their friends again and yet dreading the early morning alarm.
The mix of emotion – for all involved – is an expected part of the new school year. And one way or another, the anticipation, anxiety and nervousness will get lost in the hecticness of day one. Let the wave of enthusiasm carry you into the new year. In Lord Byron’s words: “On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined.”