I really thought as an educator who has spent much of her life in the junior high school setting first as a teacher and now as a principal I would be just fine with my kids transitioning through junior and senior high school. News flash…I’m not. Every year at the start of the school year I am a bundle of nerves. Will my kids have a good first day? Will they have someone to eat lunch with? Will they like their teachers? Will their teachers like them?
My kids generally like school, and because of the support of their teachers and administrators, have had amazing learning experiences. I’m a realist, however. I know my children won’t love every experience they have at school. They won’t get along with every adult they encounter, and they won’t enjoy every lesson planned for them in each class. They will not get along with every student, they won’t be sheltered from every unpleasant social interaction. They will hear things I wish they wouldn’t, do things I wish they wouldn’t, make mistakes I wish they wouldn’t, and all the while I expect them to learn from everything. It’s a pretty tall order – some pretty big expectations for a seventh grader and tenth grader but still, I know they can do it. I know that in order to build the resilience they need to continue to navigate life they need to experience the good and the bad.
I take a deep breath – of course everything will be fine. The day will be what it will be – they will find a seat at lunch, caring adults will help them find their way, and they will experience ups and downs with friends. At the core of the problem, I realize, is a fundamental lack of control on my part over their experience, a fundamental need to trust their judgement, and the judgement of the adults in the wonderful school they each attend. I place an amazing amount of trust in those adults, and I know they accept that responsibility with pride and care. I see it in their smiles at open house, the high fives they offer as my daughter walks in the door of her middle school, and the more mature “what’s up” head nod offered at my son’s high school.
Here’s how I also know…I live it. Junior high students are capable of amazing and impressive things and I get to experience that every day! Living a first day of school as a junior high principal over and over and being so proud of the staff and students at my school doesn’t mean as a parent I don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I don’t fret over my own children. I smile and joke fussing over how much I love them and how fast they’ve grown up, hoping I get the inevitable eye roll which helps me hold back the catch in my voice as I walk out the door wishing them a happy first day of school. But then, I square my shoulders to bear the responsibility of making sure that resilience can be built safely for the students in my school. We aren’t perfect, but we are earnest and genuine in our care and really love what we do. We prioritize partnerships to continually build trust – I hope through that we ease the inevitable first day worry – that is my wish as a principal, and as a mom.
Happy back to school – it’s going to be a great year!