September is a month of change. Summer sings its annual swan song, baseball season sends most if its teams to an early shower, and a new school year begins.
I grew up in Nebraska and can distinctly remember the changes that September brought to the Midwest. The cicadas’ incessant summer song came to a close, the blue sky over the flat plains became two shades darker, Cornhusker football fever burned bright red on Saturdays, and my school, Hillside Elementary, opened its sunny yellow doors to greet returning children.
My mother always took my siblings and me to school a week early to make sure we knew where our classrooms were. Sometimes we went twice—just in case. Each year, the school looked brand new. The gray, faux marble linoleum floors were spotless and shiny. The coat hooks outside each classroom were beckoning fingers, gesturing for students to hang up their new jackets and enter the room. The smell of Spanish rice and cornbread from the previous spring still permeated the cafeteria air.
I was always nervous at the start of a new school year, my head filled with questions: Who will be in my class? Will I get on the right bus? What will my teacher be like?
I will never forget my fourth grade year. My instructor was Mrs. Law. Like her surname implied, Mrs. Law had a reputation for being strict, merciless, established in her ways, and to the point. Before school started, when I told my parents that I was fearful of Mrs. Law, they recited their yearly mantra, “You will respect your teacher, you will do your best, and you will one day be grateful that you had the opportunity to learn from and study with different types of teachers and students.”
As it turned out, Mrs. Law ranks among my most revered teachers. She adored science (we raised silk worms) and loved to read the classics (Robin Hood was my favorite). But most of all, Mrs. Law loved to write and encouraged her students to become young authors. Ask me, and I can still recite the limerick I wrote for the class’ poetry anthology.
Mrs. Law had high expectations for her students and made sure we succeeded. When she announced at the end of the school year that she would be leaving Hillside to start a family, I was devastated. My parents told me that change is a natural part of life and to be happy for Mrs. Law. And when the next September arrived and I had Mrs. Richardson for a teacher, she too became a teacher of great influence, as did Mrs. King the September after that, and almost every teacher since.
September. Change. New teachers. New students. New friends. New challenges. As we begin the new school year, I hope we will all embrace, support and celebrate the changes we encounter. As principal at Island Park, I am always excited about the changes a new school year brings. It remains an honor and privilege to be part of this great learning community.
As we work our way through September and the rest of the school year, let us welcome and marvel at the seasons’ changes. It has been said change is inevitable; growth is optional. I encourage you to help your children see and accept new situations and challenges as opportunities for growth. The beauty and strength of our public school system is that it helps prepare our youth for the complex, diverse and challenging world they will encounter as adults—an awe-inspiring world of wonder and constant change. Happy September!