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.

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