As I wandered around my yard this past week I noticed certain telltale signs of the change of seasons. The flowers are producing fewer blooms; those that are still blooming are growing spindly and their colors are fading; weeds are popping up everywhere as I have grown lazier in the hot, humid weather; some plants are simply dying; fall perennials are already starting their new cycle.
A day later I saw an amazing sight. A pair of goldfinches, male and female, were hanging upside down on my daughter’s sunflower plants, decimating the flowers and devouring all the seeds. At first I was captivated by their beauty; then I was stunned by their greed and determination. They went at the few blooms with a vengeance, leaving no seed uneaten. I wondered what my daughter would think when she came home and saw the devastation.
This got me to thinking about transitions. There are some seasonal events we look forward to; others we dread. It’s hard to give up the languorous pace of summer, but easy to give up the daily mosquito bites and days that are too humid to enjoy. Usually by now I am beginning to get anxious about returning to school; however, this year I am about to enjoy my first fall season of retirement. (Last year I had cancer during the fall/winter season…now in remission.)
These thoughts led to others. Transitions are hard for everyone, even when they are good transitions. What kinds of anticipations or dread are kids having about beginning the new school year? Do we as teachers think about kids’hopes and fears as we begin our new school year so full of ideas and projects for them to do? What was their summer like? Did they go to camp, summer school, stay home or go back to their parents’ native countries to stay with relatives? Summers can be catastrophic for some kids who don’t have proper childcare while their parents are working; who have nowhere to go because there’s no available transportation; who spend much of the summer indoors playing video games because there is nothing else to do.
For the children who experience these hardships, the return to school can be the best thing that happens to them. Others more fortunate may have a hard time giving up lazy habits they’ve gotten into, or simply may not feel very motivated about returning to all the work and testing that they know they will face during the school year.
Yes, the massacre of the sunflowers by the goldfinches is a brutal reminder that we are about to enter a new phase of the year, and that transitions can sometimes be tough to go through. Let’s try to remember that, for the sake of our students, on the first day of school…and every day thereafter.