November 29, 2021

Finding the New

Kevin Boland Sr.

Middle School students attempt to conquer a ropes obstacle course in the woods.


Is this actually a “new” beginning or just a continuation of the “old”? The beginning of something can be eye-opening, like a new chapter, the start of a new adventure, new project, new job, new semester, a new workout, or the decision to quit a bad habit. However we see it, it is a chance to start fresh, an opportunity full of endless possibilities. We might meet new people, try new things, challenge ourselves in ways that we have not in our past, ditch old habits, anything to give us that slight edge.  


As we begin a new school year, that for now, looks very different from the start of last year, we leave behind many things that might be best forgotten. Things like isolation, missing friends, a simple trip to the store, a restaurant, travel, remote learning, Zoom meetings, and the freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted. In many ways, perhaps it helped us realize the endless choices we had from the minute we opened our eyes in the morning until our heads hit the pillow at night. We held on tight for the ride that was longer than most anticipated—that roller coaster that entered the dark tunnel spinning out of control, that seemingly endless trip that looked as if there was no end in sight.


We see the light. It may not be as bright as we had hoped, but it’s a start. In-person school, no virtual meetings, less screen time, singing, drama, lockers, athletics, catered lunch. We are still wearing masks inside and keeping a three-foot distance, but it’s a lot better. But it didn’t come soon enough. Life is pretty much back to normal, and let’s hope it stays that way. 

As students returned, we noticed subtle differences in their demeanor. Maybe it was our imagination. They all seemed very aware, concerned, and more sensitive to one another. They were just glad to be back and seemed to appreciate this “new beginning.” A student dropped some books, and a handful of students scrambled to help. New students learned to find their classrooms and where to go for lunch and physical education. The atmosphere at our Lobby meetings is more focused; there is less chaos when students enter the room. Students listen and ask questions. They are enthusiastic but reserved and respectful. In class, students seem more eager to learn, listen, and participate. At lunch, they’re enjoying their time together with masks off, mixing with different peer groups. During recess, they organize games, including some new ones they brought with them from their backyards or the beach. At dismissal, students are torn between leaving their friends and boarding their cars to go home.  


This new beginning may not be apparent to everyone, but it is to us. Sometimes minor things can become the most significant. You have to start somewhere to make the changes you might want to see. This apparent new beginning is not something students predetermined or predestined or carved into their fate; it is beyond their consciousness and is in the moment of each little decision they make in the course of their day. Our students see things through a different lens this year, although they are still breathing through their masks.

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