And now let us believe in a [new] year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been. – Rainer Maria Rilke
The first day of school provides a clean slate, affording us all the chance to reflect and envision what’s possible. You could feel the energy in the air this morning at drop-off—children and teachers thrilled to embark upon the year of deep and meaningful learning ahead.
From the first day, students invest time in establishing foundations to anchor them. Students sifted through the school’s Table of Elements to create their “positive equations,” learned routines, created classroom norms, connected with old and new friends, and began settling into unchartered, unfamiliar grade levels and classroom settings.
On this first day, students are simultaneously who they were just a few short months ago, even as they shed last year’s chrysalis to become something utterly unique. They are in the process of becoming—of course, they always are—and the first day of school highlights and punctuates this undertaking. Building on their growth and development from the previous year, students are pointed firmly ahead, ready to embrace the experiences that will help them make meaning of their lives and shape them into their best selves.
Transitions flourish upon our return for children and grownups alike. Teachers begin to observe and attune to students to create positive learning environments. Students learn classroom routines and expectations and develop habits. They are elated to be at school, exploring the water tables in early childhood, creating restaurants with Kindergarten friends, playing foursquare and soccer in elementary school, learning about each other and teachers in first-day ice breakers, building community in middle school advisories, and just hanging out on the field together sharing summer adventures.
Students feel their teachers’ delight upon welcoming them, and they beam with their own pleasure at having been seen, appreciated, and valued in our inclusive community. As Brené Brown reminds us, “Belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
I’m grateful to be part of a community that understands its strength comes from doing the work to support our shared commitment to requiring that each of us show up as our authentic selves.
We all have so much to look forward to in the execution of our shared values. This year’s theme is: What does the future need from us? Everyone in the Turning Point community has a role to play in establishing a healthy and safe future, one that is, as Rilke said, “full of things that have never been.” While our brains are designed to make decisions for the future based on what we have done in the past, we must resist our default position so we can imagine a future that doesn’t simply perpetuate and extend the present.
I believe this is our most important work as educators and as parents and guardians; it requires us all to engage with ambiguity and to be open to outcomes we cannot foresee or even imagine. It’s daunting, for sure, but also exciting to help our children meet the moment with courage, purpose, and integrity.
James Wright’s beautiful poem, “A Blessing,” ends with the startling image of “break[ing] into blossom.” This is how I perceived the students upon their return to school, bursting into their new selves as they passed under the multicolored arch into the “new, untouched” year.
As for us, their parents and caregivers, we might be comforted by these final lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, “In Blackwater Woods”:
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
This poem resonates especially with me as a parent as my family readies ourselves to say good-bye to my college-bound son. I am struck by the repetition of the final exhortation to “let it go” when the time is right. Sometimes we need that push to do that impossible task in service of our children’s growth.
The first day of school allows us to practice letting our children go into the unknown, and the absence of certainty they face is a gift that will allow them to develop flexibility, open minds, and increasing comfort with unanswerable questions—because it is in the questions where true beauty lies.
Wishing you all a beautiful year,
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School