“Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked on to the Key West shore Monday, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.” (You can read the full story here at cbc.ca.)
Sounds a little like starting a new school year, doesn’t it?
As our students started flooding into our schools this morning, we all began another endurance test known as the school year. As with every new school year, we all have a mix of anticipation and nervousness. For many this year, that anticipation and nervousness is heightened as so many of our staff and students begin this September in new places.
Whenever we have transitions in life that see us starting over in a sense, we feel especially vulnerable. We may have left the comfort and protection of a school that we had either attended or worked at for many years. We felt protected by the familiar. For my own children, two of whom started today in different school buildings than they left in June, their biggest wish this morning was that they would have at least one friend in their class or homeroom. In a few weeks or months from now, those wishes for familiarity may be distant memories as new friends are made, but for now, these were very real anxieties. I can remember a few examples from my own life when that one friend felt like the difference between survival and despair.
Entering a school year with a bunch of unknowns is a bit like entering the water without the protection of a shark cage.
However, if you read the entire article about Diana Nyad’s incredible feat, you’ll discover that Ms. Nyad’s “support team accompanying her had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her, which was designed to keep sharks at bay.” While she did not have the complete protection of a shark cage, she did have both a support team and an electrical field.
Ultimately, that’s how we get through brand new experiences and settings that seem very daunting at first … support from those around us. As educators, it is our job to help our students to feel safe and cared for. If a student feels safe and supported in our classroom, they are much more likely to be successful. We can also provide that same emotional support for our colleagues.
As we begin this new school year, I encourage you to be welcoming to all the new students and staff at your workplace. Remember what it was like the last time you were the new person. Remember how vulnerable you felt without the protection of your “shark cage” or support team.
I wish everyone a wonderful 2013/14 school year!
I invite feedback and comments to any of my blog entries. As the administrator of the blog, I approve all comments before they hit the public domain. While I do not mind comments that disagree with my point of view, I will not post comments that I deem to be inappropriate, those which are personal attacks, or those which refer to specific personnel. I also will not post comments from anonymous or nicknamed sources. While one of my goals for this blog is to open a dialogue, it needs to be a safe environment for everyone involved. Thanks for considering this before making a comment. – Mark