Hope and the Meaningful Learning Experience: Welcome Back

I hope you have enjoyed your summer and that you are anticipating the start of the 2009-10 school year with excitement and a strong feeling of renewal.  Before our doors officially open, I would like to thank you on behalf of the administrative team for your commitment to our community.  Your efforts to help our students and increase their potential for present and future success are fully recognized and valued.

In looking at the year ahead and the impact we have on our students’ lives, I’d like to convey what every good teacher (all of you) already knows: that a meaningful learning experience for the student is also a meaningful learning experience for the teacher.  What exactly does this learning experience feel like to you as professionals who  work in a 750-square-foot office with 30 different ‘co-workers’ every 80 minutes; a learning experience that asks you to make over 300 decisions a day?  What does this learning experience feel like for our students with their varying degrees of ability, their personal stories and their difficulties in navigating the tumultuous waters of adolescence?

As I was thinking about these questions, I came upon a passage from Nino Ricci’s novel, The Origin of Species, which seemed to capture the essence of our professional existence.  The description of the fictional “K’s” circumstance led me to laugh – I hope you too enjoy the passage:

He had gotten an idea for another of his projects, about a character, K., who woke up one morning to discover he had somehow got trapped in a novel.  Suddenly the most casual objects became meaningful; conversations, rather than the wordy things they had been, became aphoristic and terse.  It wasn’t long before K descended into paranoia wondering at the menacing haze of significance that seemed to surround the smallest act.  Bit by bit his life was stripped down to its most basic elements, parent, antagonist, spouse, the blood-stained dagger, the smoking gun; all the rest, the hundred meaningless people he might have met in a day, the endless hours in front of the TV, replaced by disorienting jump cuts and elisions, action piling on action until it seemed the whole of creation had become a flood tide whose sole aim was to raise the frail vessel of him to some monstrous height in order to smash it.  Then, out of the wreckage, just as baffling as the rest, came the ray of light, the not-so-distant shore.  Hope.

The demands of our daily learning experiences can sometimes feel intensely magnified with all of their nuances and challenges.  However, as it is for ‘K’ in his fictional conundrum, so it is for all of us in reality: the ‘sight’ of hope, as Thomas’ published article made note of last year, is what keeps us and our students moving forward. It is a hope that is not fictional and although it’s appearance may be baffling at times, it arises because of your sensitivity in understanding that interactions with students always have a significance beyond the immediacy of a particular situation; it arises because you design classrooms that encourage reflection and introspection; hope arises because, in the end, every learning experience at JO builds understanding within the context of human relationships.

I look forward to seeing you all on September 8th and once again having the opportunity to work with you in developing our individual and collective capacities to support students and . . . each other.