Friday, September 3, 2021

Andy Young: Back in the saddle

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Who exactly decided to declare that a new year should begin each Jan. 1? In today’s world that seemingly arbitrary choice has long since become impractical, illogical, and just plain dumb. 

Contrary to what traditional calendars dictate, any student, teacher, or person related to a child, or an educator knows that the actual start of a fresh year arrives when school begins anew, which around here occurs on or around the first of September.

When I was an immature teenage boy (a classic redundancy), I loudly professed to hate everything about school. That was the default attitude of every homework-despising student who was unmotivated, disaffected, disinterested, lazy, or, in my case, a combination of all four of those unattractive traits.

Like many willful nonperformers, I considered myself way too cool for school, so not surprisingly I spent most of every summer vacation publicly bemoaning the inevitable re-opening of the place, constantly expressing my disdain for school (and the kid-hating slave drivers who worked there) to anyone who’d listen. 

But I also had a secret I wouldn’t have revealed to anyone back then, least of all to any of my like-minded, underachieving pals.

I actually looked forward to the reopening of school each fall. 

The truth was there were some things about the school’s reopening that I enjoyed.

One example: going back meant being transported to a central location where all my friends would conveniently congregate. Another upside: the start of each year of high school meant an end to full-time summer employment. In my case that involved 40 or more hours each week of pushing lawn mowers, pulling weeds, digging ditches, picking fruit, and performing similar thankless tasks. 

And despite the handsome paycheck of $66 and change I took home each Friday, doing those chores helped me decide that none of those endeavors would be something I’d pursue as a career once my school days were finished.  

This week I’m beginning my 20th year of teaching high school English. And here’s something I now know for a fact which I never would have suspected when I was a student myself: adult school staff have the same conflicted emotions about the start of a new school year as kids do!

We all secretly look forward to meeting the new young folks whose futures we’re being entrusted with. And as was the case a few decades ago, we look forward to renewing acquaintances with our friends, many of whom are, not surprisingly, also our colleagues.

Of course, we’re all a little sad about the end of our vacation, although we have to be careful about who we vent to about that particular issue. Nurses, accountants, engineers, construction workers, and others who don’t get ten weeks off each summer often struggle to find empathy for those of us who do.

They also don’t want to hear about the total number of hours we put in during an average calendar year, regardless of when it starts.

I started teaching because I wanted to make a difference. It didn’t take long to learn, though, that every adult who interacts with young people, whether their title is teacher, coach, guidance counselor, employer, parent, or something else, influences each young person they encounter. It’s unavoidable.

The challenging (and occasionally tricky) part is figuring out how to make that impact a positive, (and hopefully lasting) one. 

There are some unique challenges at my school right now, but that’s the situation every September. The bottom line: it’s still a pleasure and a privilege to have the responsibility of impacting the future through teaching. 

Happy New Year! <

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