Saturday, August 27, 2011

On School and Gardens

It has been a wonderful first week of school. The building is full of excitement! And while many long for summer mornings of sleeping in, the place has the feeling of a big family reunion, with teachers and students all trying to catch up with colleagues, classmates, and friends. The frenetic pace of the first week is always a bit overwhelming. But that first Saturday morning of the school year is like a gift. The slow pace of the morning, a relaxing cup of coffee, letting the bustle of the first four days of the new routine fade into memory. And as I walk into my yard, I remember the other harbinger of a new school year.

Without fail, the first week of school always seems to be the hottest, driest week of the summer. And after carefully tending my garden from early spring into August, it only takes one week of leaving at dusk and returning home in the dark, to turn my small patch of Eden into something that looks like a scene from a documentary on the Dust Bowl. Tomatoes are rotting and molding on the vine, plants are browning, leaves withered, ground cracked. I pick what I can. I salvage some of the produce. I guess I'll be making more baba ganoush with the overripe eggplant. But in an odd way, this is the beauty of a school year. Because when it comes to education, that worn out, used up feeling that reminds me of my garden was my attitude about school life in the spring. As you try to keep order in the end of May, looking for signs of success, you often see more of the parched earth of students yearning for the refreshing waters of Summer. But in education, Autumn is our New Year, the Fall our Spring, where all is green and fresh and hope springs eternal. As a great friend of mine once wrote, he knew he was cut out for education because of the feeling he had when autumn rolled around; he was "renewed by the restorative effects of the Fall."

So when it comes to my garden, I'll hobble along for another couple of months, with my time and energy now devoted elsewhere. As a gardener, I know next spring will give me a new chance to be better than I am right now. But as a principal and a teacher, I look at a building of 453 bright faces, with creative and powerful minds, and I know that I've just entered a beautiful new season of growth! And what started this week will produce wonderful things over the coming nine months that will be only a beginning, because we gardeners are always surprised by where seeds germinate and what harvests will come.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The School Year is Coming!

I hope everyone is having a relaxing and refreshing summer. The school year is fast approaching! We have been back in the office planning and getting ready for the year ahead. If you check the school website, you can find details and the time schedule for August 23, the first day of school. Students can come in early that morning for their schedules and to find their lockers, but we will begin the day in the Lindner Theater at 8:00 am. In a blink of an eye, our building will be full of students again with the energy of a CHCA school day!

As always I have been doing a lot of traveling this summer. And as is the case most summers, I began my journey in my childhood home in Milwaukee, WI. It was great to reunite with my immediate family and relatives, showing my kids the places where I grew up and spent time. We went to a Brewers game together, ate frozen custard at Gilles where I worked in high school and college, and even walked around the playground of my grade school, recounting stories of kickball games and snowball fights. As a parent, there was something powerful about the intersection of my nostalgia and the insight of what my own children were experiencing in their own lives, including what will be just around the corner for them. The hopes and excitement that I felt for my children in those moments were powerful, because I understand many of the trajectories their lives will take as part of growing older. But at the same time, the details and the uniqueness of their journeys are a mystery to me, how God will shape them through the unique unfolding of their lives. And for that reason, I carry an excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead.

Many of the same emotions surround the start of a school year for me. Seniors are excited for the finish, freshmen for a beginning. Every student has expectations for the year and for themselves. They are all nervous, not knowing what it will really be like. As administrators and teachers in the building, we understand to a degree what each year looks like and how it unfolds—the emotions, the ups and downs, the inherent joys and difficulties—in a way the students can’t begin to grasp. But how the details will play out, the uniqueness of this journey, the things that will make this year truly unique and special are also a mystery in the hand of God. And so I am truly excited for another year with our students.

Please mark your calendar now and plan to join us as we celebrate the beginning of the school year and all that God will do among us at our Opening Convocation service at 6:00 PM on August 28, 2011 at St. Margaret of York. Our faculty and the class of 2012 will be marching in academic regalia and we will have the official installation of our Senior Class. It will be a wonderful time of celebration, music, worship, and prayer. Details and directions will be on the website. And please begin to pray for the year ahead and the work that God will do among us!