There is a rhythm to a school year. The energy is far different in September than it is in the weeks before spring break. It’s something I love about working in schools – you can really feel the “seasons” of the school year and the shared sense of community that comes as we move through the year.
This year, however, I am out of sync. I started the school year on bereavement leave, and shortly after returning had a bad fall that kept me out of school for a few additional days. This week is really my first week back full-time; it’s my start of the year, but everyone else is already in the thick of it.
I always knew I relied on that time before classes start to get ready for the year, tie up loose ends on summer projects, and set up my space ready for the year. It is so disorienting to be trying (and, I’ll be honest, mostly failing) to do those things once the year is underway. I am trying to get ready for a year that is already underway. My space still feels disorganized, I know I missed information from opening meetings, and I am still introducing myself to new colleagues. Colleagues are eager to jump into collaborations, but I am still getting my bearings.
I am also not coming in with the type of energy and focus I typically have at the start of the school year. Grief has made my brain… fuzzy, and I’m struggling to remember names, ideas, and tasks, or to do the types of lesson planning I usually do. It is frustrating to feel out of sync in so many ways.
I know there has been a lot of conversation over the past several years about the need to take care of ourselves and to be realistic about what we can and can’t do. Those ideas have gone from theoretical to very, very practical for me, and I’m trying to be clear with myself and others about what my limitations are at the moment. Yes, I’d love to talk ideas but I need more time to process. Yes, I can recommend a book but it will take me a while. Yes, I’m happy to meet with students but I really need a heads-up about what you all are working on. Yes, I want to be a part of things but everything is still too much for me.
I’m grateful for colleagues who have been understanding and offered support (and even encouraged me to take more time off). It is a gift to be a part of this community. And I know that people are accommodating in part because they know how difficult the last couple of months have been for me. But I also wonder what it would be like to do this all the time, not just when we are in acute need. As much as there is a rhythm to the school year, all our lives also have their own rhythm. What would change about how we work together if we were in tune with the cadence of each other’s lives?