The first of every August the tingling phenomenon begins, and by the Tuesday after Labor Day it has spread to virtually every state, every home and every school district. This Anticipation Occurrence is the result of the First Day of School, and it affects adults and children in direct proportion to their connection with K-12 academia-public or private. (College, offering a singular anticipatory outbreak in a league of its own, is not addressed in this post).
Teachers question if the lesson plans they created over the summer-or tweaked and revised from last year- will inspire, engage and motivate their students. They speculate whether administrators will return their autonomy or will continue to demand paperwork that has everything to do with data-collecting but nothing to do with teaching and learning. Their anxiety nibbles at their eagerness by teasing their minds with mental images of children who prefer punching the Apathetic, Off-Task and Oppositional Negativity Classroom buttons instead of the Enthusiastic, animated and passionate Positive Classroom buttons.
Parents fret whether Jack and Jill will march up that academic hill with a desire to learn how to read, write, compute, and think-orally and in writing-and a determination to prepare themselves for the world outside of school. They speculate whether their children’s teachers have the passion, the dedication and the stamina to teach reading, writing, computing and thinking-orally and in writing and to prepare their students for the world outside of the K-12 halls. They hope that their children will choose friends worthy of them instead of being lured by the fools’ gold friendships for popularity’s sake alone and that Jack’s and Jill’s school year will not be plagued by painful social encounters of the mean, petty and heartbreaking kind.
Students hope that the anticipation they hold right at this moment- a willingness, a readiness, and an excitement- to be the best that they can be academically, socially and in extra-curricular arenas- is on a level that they can sustain over the next nine and a half months. They worry whether their relationships-familial, social and academic-will match their dreams and, if so, whether these associations will withstand the rigors and stress the year will most assuredly dump in their laps. Mostly, they wonder if they will be liked, accepted and treasured, even if they act like they wouldn’t waste a Tweet over these concerns.
A three-part therapy does exist that will alleviate this Anticipation Occurrence for all who encounter it. From years of experience as a teacher, parent and student-and now as the Nanda (grandmother) of two girls-a first and fourth grader, I know nothing will totally relieve the tingling. Used as needed and in doses that fit the level of anticipatory suspense, though, this treatment will keep the mind itches manageable.
- Don’t allow anticipation to mushroom into apprehension. As my mother used to say, “Worrying won’t solve anything. Don’t dwell in the land of displeasure.” Although I knew that she was right, I also accepted the fact that I was a born fidgeter. My mind would hone in on an exciting upcoming event and worry it into an obstruction instead of an opportunity. Although it has taken me decades to own the adage that so many of my family and friends accepted so effortlessly- Don’t worry about things you can’t control- I am in recovery mode. Each day I remind myself that anticipation enhances my life with momentum which is ultimately much more agreeable than stagnation. I have learned how to truly enjoy the tingle of anticipation.
- Make sure that any lines of communication form a multi-lane highway. Literature, movies and musical Yes, talking with others can cause anxiety because we worry about whether they will respond to our concerns with acceptance, empathy and caring or with indifference, anger or any other hurtful emotion. “Maybe it’s best if I keep this to myself,” we often tell ourselves. This is an understandable reaction if we fear that those we need to talk with will be too busy talking at us instead of with us, will be prone to lecturing and not listening, or will not be open to any side of the story except theirs. But, we will never know unless we try. And believe me- discussing my trepidations about life and relationships with those in my worlds-the private and the public-has often been difficult, and occasionally traumatic, but the result has always been worth the efforts-on all of our parts. Knowing is half the battle (thank you, G.I Joe).
- Accept yourself-this includes your weaknesses as well as your strengths. You wouldn’t be who you are without both of these traits. Besides, if you don’t like what you deem as your flaws, use your attributes to turn them into pluses that you are happy to acknowledge.
- Teachers, if you try to teach in a way that doesn’t reflect your style, objectives and your personality- you will be unhappy and probably ineffective.
- Parents, if you try to parent like Aunt Mildred tells you to, or the way that mom and dad up the street does instead of following your values, beliefs and the methods that you most emulate, you will be unhappy and probably ineffective.
- Students, if you choose to dress, talk, act, or adhere to the likes and dislikes of those you hope will include you in their group or whose expectations of and for you differ from those in your heart and mind, you will be unhappy and probably ineffective.
All people need to strive to be the best they want to be, not what others think is the best for them.
I love the Anticipation Occurrences August ushers into my life, and the first Tuesday after Labor Day will always be a more meaningful New Year to me than January 1st. All of the other months make me tingle with the anticipation of events out of my Routine Realm, also.
Just like that elderly lady sitting on the bench in a long ago commercial said, and who I’ve quoted before, “Every day I have the choice to be happy or sad; I choose to be happy, ” every day I choose to embrace the whole lotta tingling and even the itching going on in my life. Why? Because they make it worth living.
Until next week,