For those of you new to this blog, I love the first day of fall semester and I always send something out to the new and returning teachers I work with–as food for thought about teaching and learning and about their role as teachers. Below is the 2009-2010 message:
August 19, 2009–first day of 2009-2010 academic year:
“In my dream, the angel shrugged and said,
If we fail this time it will be a failure of imagination,
and then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”
The above quotation hangs, framed, in my daughter’s room. I remember the day I bought it for her (not even knowing she was a “she” at that point). I remember trying to imagine, myself, what she would be like and who she would become. I remember thinking that of all things, imagination seemed a very good one to nurture. I remember wondering how I might help her never lose the desire to imagine. I remember thinking — “this is hard work–my brain hurts!”
As we start this Fall 2009 academic year, there are probably many reasons to be cynical and pessimistic. Budgets are being cut, travel funds are frozen, and several of the creative and intriguing educational initiatives I’ve participated in are no longer being funded given difficult economic times. As teachers and students, we are left with the basics–our passion to teach and our desire to learn. It is easy to allow that passion to dull and that desire to wane, though, when we are teaching more students for less money; learning difficult material while trying to balance financial commitments; and doing all of this while being bombarded with headlines that tell us it might only get worse. It is difficult, if you will, to imagine.
Someone said to me the other day: “The system has failed us… everything is being cut. Next thing you know, we won’t even have chalk.”
Perhaps the system has failed us. But not everything has been cut. As teachers, you have the opportunity to imagine–for and with your students–new ways of thinking, doing, and being in this world. You have the privilege of imagining–for and with your students–kinder relationships, more collaborative organizations, and more supportive communication patterns. And you have the responsibility that comes with the title of “teacher” to imagine–for and with your students–what it would take, communicatively (in whatever world they inhabit) to do good.
It is hard work–imagining. But you are all up to it. As you walk into your first classrooms this fall semester, I wish you a very bright and warm first day of school. I wish for your classrooms to be full of energy and excitement. And I hope for you to embrace the challenge and opportunity that sits before you–an opportunity that sits, gently, in the palm of your hand. I’ve seen over the years that this is an opportunity to do so much for so many in a relatively short time. This is an opportunity that does not require a budget, travel funds, or even chalk. You have everything you need to reach your students, in many ways. And knowing all of you–even knowing many of you for a very short time–I can only imagine the year that sits before us.
Happy first day of school! I look forward to hearing about all of your experiences.