First Days of School
Social media tells me that back in the U.S. school is starting back up. I just wrapped up the third week of classes here, and for the first time since I have been in India — and, maybe in my career — I was ready for the students to arrive when they walked in the door. At the start of every other year, the time available to get ready and the number of things to do were so great that the first days of school were manic for me.
My Head of School had a lot to do with this: he changed the schedule so we had 40% more days to prep than we did last year, but something else is going on, too. My experience in international education has been synonymous with Great Change — I changed countries, subjects taught (twice), schools (high school to middle school), changed co-teachers three times, and, of course, met my partner, got engaged, and then married. Sheesh . . . that’s an entire career for some — that’s been 23 months for me.
Almost everything I have to say about India to those who do not live here is about the rapid change that exists in this place, and the extreme contrasts that are so abundant. I came here because I wanted a change, and I knew enough about my new home before I arrived to anticipate the contrasts. I did not have an idea, however, of how vivid and personal that change would be, and I certainly did not anticipate ever feeling — dare I say it — comfortable in this maelstrom.
The change itself is not an easy thing to precisely describe or even identify. I know I do not know all there is to know about the kind of instruction we are doing now, or the material I am charged with presenting to my students. I don’t have all the answers to any of the questions that come my way. Despite this, I feel like I know something, yet not everything. The something matters, even if I can’t quite articulate it.
There’s a Cormac McCarthy novel in which a character says that he didn’t realize how heavy one of his burdens was until he finally put it down. I find it difficult precisely to say what it was that I set down, but I know intimately the relief and recognition that the character is describing. Setting something down, feeling the relief of not expending so much energy, and also welcoming in such gratitude at the new-found freedom from that release.
I do know this: this has been a great way to start the new school year.