A Whole New Mind

Eve Rifkin Education, Life in the Classroom, Mentoring, Social Issues

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I love the beginning of a new school year. Teachers are excited, kids are taller, and I get that feeling that this will be the year that I will finally figure out the secret to helping all kids meet their highest potential. I get that feeling every year. And after about 20 years in the business, I haven't yet cracked the code, but I'm still trying. And after all, isn't it about the journey anyway?

One of the things that I've noticed in my fellow educators at the start of the year is that we love our new journals, water bottles, planners, and pens. These supplies remind us that we need to take time to reflect and drink lots of water. But they also serve as important symbols of renewal.

Yes, we have all done this dance before. In fact, there's that kid walking in late on the very first day just like he did every day last year. And there's that mess in the corner of that space, the same mess that was there in June. And there's my stress level going up when I my class rosters keep changing and I don't have enough chairs. Indeed, each year could easily feel like one long annoying continuation of last year and the year before. A giant "here we go again." But we get that new water bottle and moleskine journal as a way of saying "No. This year is going to be different."

I'd like to invite my fellow educators to take it a step further. In addition to the new things that you've acquired to set the year off right, how about adopting a fresh new mind? The late Shunryu Suzuki, wrote a book entitled Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. In it, he posits that the "beginner's mind" is an open mind, that it holds the capacity for doubt AND possibility, and is able to see all things as fresh and new.

That kid who came late every day last year may really want to reinvent himself this year. Maybe he wants to be the kind of person that shows up on time, or even a little early. Maybe he just needs some help or encouragement. Our ability to see him with a new and fresh perspective will, at the very least, let him know that we believe he has the capacity for change.

 

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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