Just a thought… Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. [William Butler Yeats]
“Welcome back, welcome back, welcome ba-a-a-ack….” How many years did we start an hour or a show with that refrain of the theme from TV’s Welcome Back Kotter? More than I can count. But it still resonates today. It’s a day of butterflies and excitement, seeing your crush again after a long – too long – summer apart and finding out who grew a shadow of a moustache (likely me) or if your bestie was going to be in your class.
For many teachers, it’s a day of even bigger butterflies: the notes I got last week after Thursday’s journal about wishes for those starting high school all had a similar theme of being nervous and even having a nightmare about too many students and too few supplies. Trying to remember names, hoping you’ll get through. Teaching is a high calling. May you be the name a student remembers when they’re thanking those who helped them learn lessons in – and out of – the classroom.
Outside of school, yellow buses grind back to life after months spent idly parked in fields and lots. The traffic flow is back to “normal,” which, of course, in the GTA is hell ratcheted down to a deeper and even slower level. Lunches have been made (or ingredients purchased for whenever a full school day resumes) and new clothes have been bought for growing bodies.
For many, it’s a day of sharing stories and experiences from summer, although face it: in this day of Instagram and texting, are there any secrets about what someone you know was up to for the last few months? Probably not.
Today is the day that fresh challenges begin. I always felt that the day after Labour Day was more of a new start than New Year’s Day.
I was always sorry that the beginning of the important Fall Ratings period for radio meant that I couldn’t once see Lauren off to school as a small child heading into new classrooms. Daddy got to take her every time and we knew that was part of the life we’d signed up for, but I always wished I could have, that one day…just once.
Or perhaps you’re a parent whose home is empty for the first time and you truly know what it is to have your heart out there in the world. You know you gave them the roots they needed and now they’ve taken wing.
I remember sitting sobbing in a taxi as I headed back to Ottawa airport after making sure Lauren was settled and ready for her first year of Algonquin College in radio. I thought my heart would break. All of that following week nine years ago, I cried every night, missing the joyful sounds that came from down the hall, where her bedroom resonated so often with singing. The emptiness was almost too much to bear.
But like in most cases, time proved a wonderful healer. Endings bring beginnings and, just as summer’s unofficial close came with the last ride shutting down at the CNE or, in our case, the Saanich Fair, a new crisp, smooth, beautiful white sheet of paper is turned, just waiting for wisdom to be passed on, mistakes to be made and memories to be written.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m late for class. Again.