I have spent the last few weeks preparing for my new students, working through what they will ask the first day, dreaming about the chemistry of each class, redesigning my classroom and their reactions to it. And just when I think I have exactly what they need the very first day, something happens to remind me of my real role in their lives.
One of my colleagues, one of the students' favorite teachers, died unexpectedly at the end of last week. It is hard for me to picture the school without her, to be honest. So I am preparing for her funeral tomorrow instead of the first day of school. I did not know her well: we taught different subjects, and she was a coach-type person, while I am a club-type person. She taught here for 20 years, while I am still a newbie with only four years. But all I can think about are the students we share, and I have been thinking of them and how this is so much harder for them to understand than it is for me. And how some of them will need a hug, but others may want to talk. And still others are going to make the connection immediately that she and I were close in age. So, they will not just miss her, but they will have an early reminder that nothing is for sure, it could all change tomorrow. This generation is certainly more savvy about the transience of life and experience than mine was, but when it comes to a tragedy like this, they are still children who deserve to be nurtured and loved. So my first few days of school will be about listening to them, letting them see my feelings and still providing some foundation for absorbing the sadness and remembering a much beloved teacher, colleague and coach. This is the hard stuff, the most important stuff. Beowulf may have to wait. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.