It’s the start of a new school year.
Many of the students are returning to the same building, the same classmates, and the same teachers. In our school cycle, there is so much continuity and familiarity, making the first day of school feel like the first day back from a long weekend. Some have grown a little taller, lost another tooth, have new haircuts, clothes, and backpacks. They run to meet each other ready to start it all over again.
What will be new this year? Am I ready? Are those butterflies because I’m excited or nervous or both?
There are also new students. Preschoolers are being dropped off for the first time as parents hold their breath. Kindergarteners from other schools join together with classmates who are returning for their second year. Even with stability and continuity, a new year always brings opportunity for growth and a fresh start.
It’s a bright sunny day. The classrooms are clean and the furniture is set up just so. The play yard has been unplayed for some time. The garden is in bloom and has a bounty awaiting harvest. The teachers look rested. In the cycle of the school, this year feels really good. There is a lot of positivity and hopefulness. Maybe we’ve moved through the turmoil of the pandemic (knock on wood). Maybe we’ve moved through some growing pains and are ready for a year of stability (knock on wood). Maybe we’ve found ourselves with just the right combination of teachers and staff who have the energy and inspiration to carry us into the next phase (more wood, never enough wood). The knocking is our constant reminder to be grateful.
A fresh start. A new beginning. In the Jewish tradition, this is the time of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Head of the Year. A time to reflect on the past year, clean out the spiritual pipes by blowing the shofar to WAKE US UP and step into a clean, new year. It’s an interesting time, seasonally, to make this declaration. We are about to transition into the fall. The brightness of the Earth in the Northern Hemisphere is about to darken. The leaves will start to fall, the days will soon shorten, and our energy will turn inward.
In the Waldorf tradition, we celebrate Courage in a re-interpretation of the traditional Michaelmas festival. The gesture is to gather the strength and power we’ve gained in the summer and steel ourselves for the darkness and for the time of introspection. Imagine your body in a great expansion, standing as widely as possible with arms and legs outstretched like a star, energy radiating out of your fingers. Then pull that energy with muscles held firm into your center. This is the slow progression from Summer to Winter and in this pause, this moment of the new beginning, we take hold of those forces and acknowledge them, honor them, and feel that power.
In the Michaelmas tradition, one often tells the story of George and the Dragon. Teachers, don’t scold my brevity, but the essence of the story is that the knight, George, gathers all of his strength and courage and faces the dragon and either slays him, tames him, or chases him away (pick your age-appropriate ending). George is us. We are the knights, full of strength and courage. And the Dragon? Only you know. What is your dragon this year? What are you facing that requires you to tap into your courage and strength? Who do you need to confront? Who do you need to forgive? Is your dragon a societal ill or a personal life pattern that needs interruption?
Take advantage of this moment of new beginnings, hear that wake-up call, and go forth! You can do it. I believe in you.