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Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring And September: Hope And Optimism

The nice thing about winter in upstate New York is that it eventually unleashes a surge of appreciation for Spring. It’s only been a few days since the ugliest sight of the transition between the seasons was erased. That is, the period of time when the snow banks, the last vestige of winter’s assault, have surrendered to warmer temperatures and melted, shirking the ugly brown veneer of sand and mud that have coated them since the road department scattered the elements in the wake of snowplows.  

This year the fiercely cold winds and the depth of snow were as persistent as ocean waves upon the shore. The inclement weather laid siege to the area, restricting life and leaving people under a three month long house arrest.

These last couple of days have been a welcome reprieve from the harsh winter when snowstorm after snowstorm battered the area, interrupted only by occasional bouts with sleet and rain. The temperature slowly rose until the thermometer broke through into the fifties. I've enjoyed the change as I stood out in front of the school greeting everyone as they entered the building. There were detectable bounces in the steps and noticeably broader smiles on faces. Overcoats have been replaced by more accommodating clothing.

The flowers burst above the ground, chirping birds fill the air, leaves unfold on previously bare trees, and the warm rays of extended sunshine wrap around us - all signs of casting aside the months of a long winter hibernation. The fresh possibilities of the new season slowly overwhelm the dormant winter. Spring offers a sense of rebirth and renewal. That's why I enjoy spring - starting over!

Spring reminds me of September. I have the same feelings of excitement as children return from their time away from school, sporting new clothes of many styles and colors, showing evidence of growth and change, and bringing hope and optimism in their hearts and minds, as sure as they bring fresh supplies in their ubiquitous backpacks. They enter new grades with new prospects and new perspectives on their futures. It's a time of blank slates and positive beginnings.

Although I work through the summer, my role and responsibilities are different enough in scope and direction that the alteration of duties represents an interruption in the flow of my year just as winter disrupts much of our daily life and routines. That intermission breaks up the rhythm of my calendar and causes September to mimic the form of spring. I feel rejuvenated by the excitement of children migrating back to school, anxious to renew relationships with friends they haven't seen regularly since school ended in June. They're curious to find the location of their lockers and classrooms, and eager to experience the next grade as they continue their progression through school. There is no better affirmation of the sense of renewal as the wide-eyed Kindergarten learners, who are birthed into a vast new chapter of their lives filled with hope and optimism.

I've often wondered how I'd feel if I worked in a different career that was continuous in time, unabated by discernible transitions like those that separate the seasons. A job with calendars that merely flip pages and blend together, without looking or being any different from one month to another. Extended relationships with peers with interactions so frequent and elongated that workers might not detect subtle changes within their fellow workers. The absence of regular benchmarks and rituals, such as observing learners pass from one grade to another.

As I reflect on a life in which I've lived through fifty three of these school year cycles, from entering Kindergarten, through college, and into a lengthy career as an educator, I feel very grateful and fortunate to mark my life in this manner. Maybe that's why it didn't seem to be such a long period of time for me until I actually sat down and counted. I enjoy the annual rites of spring - and September - and look forward to experiencing many more.

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