Recognizing what is unique about a period of time is an important skill for teachers to develop. The unique qualities of a moment can help a teacher connect to their students' authentic experiences of that particular time. In Between Times demand extra creativity and scaffolding. Students often feel the dormancy of winter, the weight of continuity and continuation. In Between Times demand resilience in ways Beginnings and Endings don’t. While Endings beg for patience, quiet, and the stillness of reflection. Middle times ask students to keep at it, hit your stride, settle into routine. Endings ask how far have you gone? What have you done and who have you become? But it’s Beginnings that offer the magic of creation learning feeds on.
There are the tried and true strategies for leveraging this exciting moment and experience. Intentions and contracts are popular activities. They offer structured opportunities to dream and imagine. Students beginning new chapters in school, perhaps freshmen in high school or kindergarteners, have been known to make time capsules to be opened during an Ending Time, senior year or 5th grade graduation. Assemblies and ceremonies abound as schools try to leverage excitement and freshness to ensure strong starts; we all know and feel the specialness of Beginnings. But the power of Beginnings, the magic the liminal offers is a tricky power that erodes with every passing moment. And the demands of school, the pressure to move and get started and pass through the magical space of Beginnings into the “real year” is often too powerful to resist.
There is learning to be done, goals and outcomes to achieve and skills to master. While the year is long, the funny thing about Beginnings is as soon as they happen, with every minute that passes the magic dissipates. Beginnings become not beginnings from the moments of their inception. And the pressure to achieve and accomplish is one of Beginning’s greatest enemies.
But resist the urge if you can. The year is long and while there’s much to do, there is time. Harnessing the power of Beginnings can propel students and classrooms into years of learning fed by the dreams of the first days and weeks. Projects that document those aspirations, making time to honor where we want to go and what we dare to dream, create fertile ground to stretch and strive in. And the longer you can remain in that space, the longer you can spend in conversation not about who we were and where we came from, but about what we want and where we want to go, the deeper and impactful the process can be. Intentions are important and they never mean more than when you’re making them. So take a little extra time this fall and embrace the magic of beginnings, you just might find it extends further into the year than you’d expect.