The Autumn Chill

So this week I’d like to talk about something that I call the “Autumn Chill”….let me explain. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than the start of a new school year. With the excitement of some new school improvement initiatives, the addition of some fantastic new students and faculty, and the overall buzz and energy of a year that is bursting with promise and possibility, it’s not hard to want to rush to work everyday and soak up all the positive vibes. For us this year, the weather was warm and the sun was shining, we had a wonderful beginning with our new curriculum/Let’s Talk about Kids focus, and we seem to have all come up for air after our much needed October holiday. We’ve completed our MAP testing and used the data to goal set with students, we’ve had faculty goal meetings with individual teachers, we’ve gotten our heads around the new report card and electronic portfolios, and we’ve all settled into the year that lies ahead with a clear focus on our collective and individual expectations for ourselves and our students…..and now here comes a long, demanding, 9 week stretch that is bound to test our resolve.

There’s something about the second quarter of a school year here at SCIS that wields a double edged sword in my opinion. On one side, it’s the time of the year where initiatives can start to solidify, student learning can really start to take off, and we can all start to totally gel as a new faculty. On the other side, it starts to get colder, the leaves and rain start to fall, there are no breaks in sight with regards to long weekends or holidays until Late November, the decision about contracts and renewal is very much on our minds, and inevitably the enthusiasm and energy begins to wear off. There tends to be a slight melancholy, or Autumn Chill, which looks to creep in, and like the season (insert life metaphor here) our mindsets can begin to change.

I think it’s important to not only recognize this potential change of energy, but to talk about it specifically. Many of us can (and will) become distracted by all that lies ahead, and unfortunately, these distractions can detract from our focus on the students. Over the next 6 weeks we have comments to be written and reports to go home, we have parent teacher conferences over two half days, we have school swim meets and UN day celebrations, we have the International Food Fair, and we have our first semester Drama performance as well as our annual three day Dynamix music festival…….wow, my head starts to spin just thinking about it! The biggest distracter of all however, is the anxiety and trepidation (and excitement of course) that comes along with our individual decisions about next year. Contract time is a heavy time indeed as you all discuss, review and deliberate over what your futures hold. I wrote a piece this time last year about teacher retention (find it on my blog if you want to review), and below is a snippet that I’d like to reiterate and share……..

“My true attempt with this message really, is to say that I am committed to helping you all find a situation that is the best fit for you as an educator. I would be happy to go through the decision making process with anyone, at anytime, to ensure that you make the best possible and informed decision when it comes time to sign. I want happy teachers working here, and teachers who are committed to the vision that we’re trying to bring to life over the next couple of years. I am also interested in hearing about what it is that is making you want to stay or go, through exit interviews, goal conferences, or informal conversations. Please seek me out if you need to bend someone’s ear, and I’d be thrilled to help you find that perfect fit………..even if it isn’t at SCIS”.

I guess what I really want to say about this time of the year, or this Autumn Chill, is that we need to take care of each other, and be a tremendous source of support for one another. Let’s talk openly about how we’re feeling, let’s rally around each other when the weeks drag on, and let’s go out of our way to lift each other up. I’m asking all of you to please take care of yourselves physically and mentally over the next couple of months, and to find a balance in your lives that keeps you healthy and energized. It’s going to be a long stretch, the weather is going to get cold and damp, the days are going to get shorter and the nights are going to get longer, so let’s prepare and ready ourselves for the benefit of our students and faculty. Don’t forget, this upcoming 9 week stretch is brimming with opportunity for our students, as the uninterrupted student learning time is as good as it gets.  Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, and I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead. I’m excited about all that is coming our way, and together we can make it an incredible second quarter. Be good to yourselves everyone, and please be good to each other………. and remember, I’d love to help and support any one of you if you need an ear to bend.

Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and supportive of one another through the upcoming Autumn Chill!

Quote of the Week……..
Winter is an etching, Spring a watercolor, Summer an oil painting and Autumn a mosaic of them all.
–  Stanley Horowitz

Attachment – The Autumn by Elizabeth Barrett Browning The Autumn ­ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Interesting Article on Caring in Education (thank you Kim Comeau)
http://www.infed.org/biblio/noddings_caring_in_education.htm

Wonderful TED Talk – Amy Cuddy
http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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