Back to School! September 06 2022

School is beginning again! Some schools in some regions are well into their second week of school and in other areas, teachers and parents are gearing up today for a post-Labor Day beginning. Rose ceremonies in Waldorf schools are being prepared, main lesson books purchased, new crayons accounted for, pencils and pens being inventoried, beeswax, paints, and paper are tallied. Cleaning and preparation of classrooms are underway. It’s always refreshing and exciting—as well as daunting—in this transition from the freedom of summer to the scheduling of autumn.

In these post-pandemic times, “Back to School” has a different kind of a sound to it. For two full years, school became something very different from what had been “ordinary.” Teaching at home or in separate pods of children along with outdoor classrooms and more screen time than most youngsters had previously known, all became part of a landscape designed to “cope” rather than as a landscape familiar to learners, teachers, and parents.

This year marks the second in which schools can begin as of old, with the excitement of seeing everyone again, new copybooks, new main lesson books, and anticipation of a good year of new and deep subjects to explore.

Positive outcomes from all the disruption of these past years include a new appreciation for the glory of school.  Some parents learned of the complexities of teaching and experienced a deepened awareness of the task of teaching. Other parents found teaching at home a joy and have continued the practice. Teachers have learned of the relief of teaching face-to-face. Students have come to understand the importance of being with other students and the strange feelings of isolation that haunted them for the time they could not come to school.

All of us have learned of the damage that comes from isolation, and the deepening of rifts that, in the past, could be overlooked in the friendliness of daily contact. All have learned of the dangers of working to learn all alone. Some have learned of the addictive hazards of screen time as a substitute for actual social interactions. Some parents lament the loss of their (mostly middle school) youngsters to hours and hours of screen time with friends, started as a coping mechanism in the enforced isolation, and now an endless battle in trying to curtail the time spent on screen.

Years of onscreen meetings and classes have allowed a certain “people fatigue” to enter as a new phenomenon. There are reports of a certain reluctance having crept in, not wanting to be bothered to meet in person (“Can’t you just email me?” “Must I leave home when we can meet via Zoom?”).  There are elements of life that can be seen as more spectator sports than participatory events. An increase of knowing what everyone else should be doing is a recent “thing.”

With the coming of a new school year comes a showering of meteoric iron from the skies. The Perseids began in late July and were visible through late August in the Northern Hemisphere. Later in the fall (November) the Leonids follow. This iron showering strengthens us inwardly for the coming year and helps us to muster the forces needed to meet each other, to learn, and to develop inwardly.

This year, perhaps more than in other years, this meteoric iron is needed. With all our experiences of these last two years, there is much to overcome inside and outside. In the talk of “a new normal,” it’s important to recall and refresh “the old normal” so that we can feel at ease seeing each other face to face once again. Leaving phones and pads and computers out of the picture from time to time is important, communicating with courage in meeting with each other, not escaping to texts or email or TikTok. May this be a wish and a blessing for us all in this new school year!