For teachers, late August is the Sunday night of the summer. My attention shifts from books, unscheduled days and spontaneous outings to lesson plans, dorm room assignments and the opening of school meetings. Throughout the month, I glance at my calendar nervously, counting how many more weeks, days remain before my (almost) unscheduled time comes to a screeching halt. It’s soon.
There’s no such thing as unscheduled time in a boarding school. Most teachers are “triple threats”: we teach; we coach or direct an afternoon program; we do dorm duty. We work Saturdays and some of us (ahem!) have Sunday night dorm duty. I will go to bed later but still get up at 6:00 am. In a little over a week, the now silent dormitory will fill with loud, happy reunions, knocks on the door to ask for a hammer or tape or batteries or “Can my mom use your bathroom?” Doors will slam. Feet will pound up and down the stairwells. All kinds of music, from country to hip-hop, will compete. Quite honestly, it won’t be quiet again until Thanksgiving.
We ease into the year with a few days of Faculty Meetings. We will catch up with colleagues we haven’t seen since June and introduce ourselves to new members of the community. We will marvel at how the faculty children have grown, and I will answer questions about Andrew’s transition to college. We will catch up on what we’ve read over the summer and where we’ve traveled. We will gently inquire about elderly parents. The adults in a boarding school, from faculty to administrative assistants to chefs to Buildings and Grounds staff are the foundation of our community.
But even after almost twenty-five years of teaching, I still wake up at night and worry. Like many students, I still get nervous on the first day of school. Truthfully, the nerves start……...well, now. Here are some questions I’m grappling with at 3 am: How will I address Charlottesville with my students? How do I model and teach civility in a very uncivil time? How do we create community again in the classroom? In the dorm? What will go wrong this year?!!
So how to spend these last few days of solitude and quiet? I will squeeze in as many yoga classes and long walks as I can. I will plan the first few weeks of classes and work out dorm schedules. I will finalize my summer reading writing assignment. I will buy school supplies! Yes, I will even give some thought to what I will wear on the first day of school.
Truthfully, I love the rhythm of a new school year. I love the opportunity for a fresh start. What other job allows the chance to try again every September?
But for now, the late August weather cooperates as the nights grow cooler and even the light begins to change. When I walked this morning, I put on a sweatshirt.
But I will keep my beach chair in the car.