Butterflies

They’re more than just butterflies. For most of the students I know the transition back to school doesn’t merely cause a gently uncomfortable fluttering in their stomachs. It’s more like a Molotov cocktail mix of emotion creating tumultuous explosions in their brains. While many of their peers experience a sort of nervous excitement at the beginning of a new fall semester, my kiddos are struggling with amped up anxiety that can be nearly debilitating.

Precedent (and I) reminds them they’ll get through this transition –again. They’ve managed. They have found success.

Still, this is not an easy time of year.

butterflyLong after I had no reason to worry about the upcoming first day of school, I still fought off flutters. Into adulthood I had dreams of roaming hallways, missing classes. Then it was the vicarious connection to my own children that left me sleepless before that first day of school.

In spite of the reasons she had to hate back-to-school, Alex has always been fairly unfazed by transition. When she was a toddler and I woke her to tell her we were going to Disney World, she didn’t miss a beat. Years later, when her little brother was given a similar sort of surprise, he kicked at the Contemporary Hotel room door in an effort to escape. Disney, Mickey and the whole army of animated friends he’d come to love were no enticement. He wanted to go home and sleep in his own bed.

For a lot of years, school was a sort of home for Michael. He was blessed with good grade school teachers who were more captivated by his intellect and humor than intolerant of his quirkiness. It didn’t last. An ominous sort of foreshadowing came when, with grade school in his rearview mirror, Michael told me that back-to-school was the time of year he stopped learning.

My students don’t always embrace learning. But their reluctance to reenter the rat race of college life often has little to do with what they are taught in the classroom. It’s all that other stuff.

It’s too bad they couldn’t step back and remember—if only for a second or two—that the classroom stuff is actually why they’re at school. Mom and dad and they may have too fully embraced the notion of an elusive “college experience.” Coursework and learning sometimes take a backseat to the life lessons college students are allegedly learning on campus. I’m all for some big picture ideals but what exactly is wrong with that other learning –you know, the one for which they’re paying the big bucks?

I’ve met all levels of learners and have seen the good and bad in educators. I sometimes harken back to Alex’s fifth grade teacher who was clear in her high expectations for all her students. She raised the bar and –regardless of their innate abilities—her students met it. They were often able to do better than they thought they could –probably because someone believed that they could, too.

I believe my students are ready and able—even if they’re not always willing—to succeed. I confess, though, that I have a particular fondness for the smart kids. (Did I mention that rarely do the smart ones receive the best grades? And no, I am not referring to Michael right now.) I cut some students a bit more slack than I should because I believe, in spite of much reluctance on their part and evidence to the contrary, they’ll get it. They’ll find something worth learning, whether it’s in or out of the classroom, and go full throttle in the direction of their passion. They’ll head toward an abyss of knowledge and plunge into its depths.

So maybe the students who are most frightened by the fall transition are dead-on accurate. Just imagine how scary it must be for them to stand at the precipice of their full potential.

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Family Business

handsI’ve read enough of the details of the Demoulas divide to understand a bit about the players and their rift. I get that the wounds are deep, the scars likely permanent. But isn’t it time to put down the weapons, take a breath and step back? Regardless of the visceral hatred between Arthur S. and Arthur T., are they both so self-absorbed that they can’t see the catastrophic collateral damage their family feud is causing?

I don’t get it.

How could I? Where I come from, family trumps business and profits. By far.

Kelley and I often discuss the very good example that was set for both of us growing up. We learned a lot about familial ties and loyalty, but also what it takes to run a successful business when the partners are family members. Our parents didn’t always agree on the way things should be done. They fought. They yelled. But at the end of the day, all that was put aside. They came together for food and drink, and to leave work –at work.  They even vacationed as a foursome. Because that’s what families do. Or at least, that’s what my brothers and cousins and I were taught.

Michael and I were talking about the Market Basket debacle the other day because its ripple effects had landed—or not landed—on his kitchen table. I outlined a snippet of the news, but then offered him a scenario in terms to which he might more closely relate. What if the family business with which he was already familiar had remained in all our hands and rather than feuding cousin Arthurs they were feuding Phils?

He couldn’t get there. The Phils of whom I speak are very different; in age, style, ideas and ideals. But they’re still family. In Michael’s world, what’s going on with the Demoulas clan is unfathomable.

And it should be.

If I’ve passed absolutely nothing else on to my kids, at least I got this one thing right: your family will always have your back. And that’s not just mom and dad. It’s the whole family. When I was young, I was as confident of that as I was that the sun would come up. It always did; they were always there.

Maybe the Demoulas craziness is just another example of what kids don’t have today. The more they’re bombarded with these examples of families that don’t get along, the more it becomes their normal. And if they can’t trust their families, then no wonder that real loyalty among their friends seems such an alien concept.

Michael has become distrustful. He’s in business for himself and he’s learning some hard lessons first-hand at a pretty young age.

Still, the idea that cousins can’t get along, that your family doesn’t have your back, to him –that’s just crazy talk, well beyond his comprehension.

And it should be.