A new significance dawned on me this Labor Day as I anticipated the start to the 2013-2014 school year.
This year's was the second Labor Day I experienced in the dual roles of mother and educator. The parallel between the labor for both, however, escaped me last year as the day rolled around in the midst of my maternity leave. Dan, Keats, and I spent Labor Day Weekend 2012 immersed in nature and each other in the midst of Mt. Rainier. This year, though? This year found me on the brink of the new school year.
Research shows that many women's memories of labor pain fade over time, in part because of the halo effect, the euphoria women feel after a healthy delivery. This halo effect means that positive memories override the painful memories of labor - and that seems pretty critical for procreation's sake. Labor is a fitting term; labor is hard work. Labor is also an amazing experience, a feeling of being alive, a feeling of being a part of life.
For educators, the labor in Labor Day is just as appropriate. We set up our classrooms and offices as parents-to-be set up their nurseries, anticipating the arrival of our children with nervous excitement. Parents paint the walls; teachers staple colored butcher paper to them. Parents buy infant clothes and bath products; teachers buy school supplies and hand sanitizer. Parents read What to Expect When You're Expecting; teachers read curriculum and student information cards. Parents and teachers alike prepare as much as they can for the impending arrival of children, but it's impossible to be completely prepared. Even when we've done it before, time's passing from one birth to the next or one school year to the next takes some of the less favorable memories with it. And just like a second child, the subsequent group of students never looks nor behaves quite the same as the first.
This year brought something different for me in the guise of a new role: instructional coach. At its essence, this means I partner with teachers to support struggling learners. It also means co-planning meaningful (Meaningful?! Oh, the pressure!) professional development for teachers. It means being prepared to often feel completely unprepared as teachers approach with questions for which I have no answers. It means that the To Do list I look at during Keats' weekend naps now involves delving into Common Core Standards. It means embracing each new challenge and learning while giving myself the grace to make mistakes.
Labor is a fitting term; the days surrounding Labor Day for educators are hard work...but they're also amazing days filled with possibility and the feeling of being connected to the future.
And so it begins.
Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year, a time for a little anxiety and a lot of hope.