Heads of School Speak: Starting a New School Year

By Joyce Gregory Evans

September is an exciting yet anxious time In the lives of children, parents, and teachers. Most of us have enjoyed the summer change Of routine and look forward to the familiar structure and rhythm the school year provides. While a new school year brings opportunities for new friends, different teachers, new approaches, etc., the excitement is often accompanied by anxious thoughts about the stability of old friendships and loyalties, the competence of the teachers or the value of new ideas and approaches. "Will Susan or Bill still be my friend? Will I be included at recess? Will any of my friends be in my class? Did my child get the best teacher? Does this new teacher have the proper training and experience? Is this the best school for my child? Will I remember how to teach well, meeting each student's needs? Is there another approach that I should try?"

What everyone is experiencing is the change that comes with each new school year, however insignificant or significant that might be in each life. Dr. Robert Evans from Wellesley, Massachusetts, speaks of the unsettling nature of change. It may mean loss or grief, as we may be deprived of continuity which gives us meaning. It may make us feel incompetent as it sometimes means our former skills or ways of doing things are redefined and possibly less valued. Sometimes we are confused, since our old structures are in flux or we may feel conflicted since change often brings winners and losers. We all resist change since, according to Dr. Steven Gould at Harvard, we are "pattern-seeking animals so that we can understand life." Dr. Evans says, "Change is the destruction of life as we formerly knew it!"

However, everything about change is not negative, as Dr. Evans notes. When change preserves continuity, linking the new to enduring values and to the familiar, it is easier and often challenging and exciting. No wonder the new school year brings an excitement. Usually the changes are small ones linked to what we know and have experienced. Forming new friendships, experiencing new teachers,and trying different approaches to learning are all healthy and important ways for us to grow. Adjusting to the minor changes that each new school year brings is marvelous experience and training for the changing society in which we live.

As our children, teachers and parents begin a new school year, let's remember that the anxiety that comes with change is part of life, something that happens in small ways for each of us daily. We all need to accept change as we adjust, resist, grieve, and then move forward with the excitement that accompanies it. May this new school year bring an eagerness to accept and embrace change as challenging and exciting for children, parents, and teachers alike.

Ms. Evans is the Head of The Town School.