Yesterday was the first day back to school for my kiddos; they are going in person, wearing masks, and keeping socially distanced. This week is also Rosh Hashanah: a new year in the Jewish faith, a chance for repentance and renewed good fortune. Last week would have been my parents' 43rd wedding anniversary, celebrated just before the start of school. Every year, my mom (who was a first grade bilingual classroom teacher) greeted new faces to school, teaching children how to navigate the day, create friendships and try out their fledgling independence -- in addition to learning math concepts and how to spell.
When I moved to the United States in first grade, I entered the school year in March (I had been on a southern hemisphere calendar before moving). But ever since then, in my own education and in over 26 years as an educator, I have been on a northern hemisphere schedule. So - more than Lunar New Year or New Year's Eve celebrations around the world, September symbolizes a new year, a fresh start, with sharpened pencils ready for a blank sheet of paper on which to write a new chapter of my story.
Still, this year's start of school feels different. The Delta variant of the coronavirus pandemic. Countries with various levels of access and rates of vaccination. Mask mandates. Online or hybrid learning. The levels of uncertainty for teachers, parents and students seems much greater than pre-pandemic times. And a repeat of what we saw in 2020.
However, particularly in this time of uncertainty, the opportunity for a fresh start still exists. There is a chance to hit the "reset" button and ask ourselves, as we enter a new season:
Who am I becoming in this new situation?
What am I learning?
How will I build, rebuild or strengthen connections with others?
How can I try to manage my stress?
For me, within the vortex of the last two years, the blur of Covid time, the shifting transitions and routines, this new school year means that it's important to pause, reflect and commit to moving forward.
I am becoming... a coach for more cross-cultural students (and their parents).
I am learning... so much on a daily basis: how to build an independent practice, how to balance motherhood and working from home, and what it means to live in this, one of my passport countries.
This summer, I had some friends move away and others move here, so this year I will build... friendships with a small group of local women, to support each other.
I will try to manage my stress by... adding tiny habits to my day: meditation, yoga, running and eating more plants. :)
These questions could serve as reflection points regardless of where you are in your educational or life journey. For example, if you are a college/university student (or parent of one!), entering campus for the first time, you may ask yourself:
What practices from the past year helped me and how can I bring them into this new space?
Which habits or practices are best left behind?
Which routines will help me thrive?
What kinds of people do I want to be around?
When I emerge from this transitions zone, who do I want to be?