We are now officially two days into the school year. It feels like an instant and a whole lifetime since summer. Lockers have been assigned, folders labeled, new books opened and new faces welcomed. We met in the auditorium as a whole middle school for the first time today and what has been theoretical for weeks became real and undeniable. This is our (giant) middle school family. This is the new us.
The chance to reinvent is one of my favorite things about the new school year in general and middle school in particular. It is a time to let go of bad habits and permission to try on a new self. When the middle school faculty met for the first time this year, we talked about imitation as a tool for change. Setting a goal is abstract but emulating a friend’s good qualities is concrete. Today in middle school meeting, with our community of students ringed by teachers and staff, I asked the students to do what the adults did a week ago. Think of something you want to work on this year, I said. Maybe it’s being a better listener, or more organized, or to have more reading stamina, or to be more outgoing. Then think of a friend who has that quality. And secretly resolve to observe them and do what they do.
Middle schoolers are famous for conformity and we adults often fret over it. If they emulate their friends, we worry, they will be less themselves, or make bad choices. But imitation can be a powerful force for growth. The question is not whether or not to follow, but who to follow and why. This is a group of young people with a wealth of admirable qualities. They are funny, kind, patient, brave, determined, and inventive. They should absolutely imitate each others' best qualities; they have a lot to choose from.
It has been a treat to be with your children over the last two days and I’m looking forward to many more. Welcome.