by Mike Leander, Principal Athol Community Elementary School
The 2016-17 school year starts on Tuesday for me in a brand new school, in a brand new district. I often refer back to the school year cycle “Phases of first year teachers’ attitude towards teaching” I found using Twitter a few years ago. I feel it is relevant for any educator at any point of the year.
This year as my family was taking our annual trip through the Fort Ticonderoga Corn Maze, the school year cycle popped into my head right before we entered. I felt the “anticipation” of beginning the corn maze challenge, knowing we had all come prepared with the map and bottles of water. As we entered the maze, my two daughters, my son and I ran to find the first marker, but we were running so fast we missed one of the small turns that my wife found only minutes later that led to the first stamp on our journey.
My youngest daughter was finally tall enough this year to stamp our card of success. We celebrated the success and continued our adventure looking for marker number 2. Soon we found ourselves in the “survival” mode of the adventure and relying on my daughter and sons’ knowledge of history to help solve the questions along the path. Every turn and path seemed to look the same and paths we had traveled were beginning to be overlapped, as we were suddenly lost looking for stamps 3 and 4. It was very apparent that we were now into the “disillusionment” phase of the adventure we had thought to be an easy activity having completed it several times before.
As we found markers 6 and 7, we began coming back together and beginning to get excited as we had one marker left to complete our adventure again this year. Everyone wanted to find the last marker and complete the final stamp. This year I found the marker! I yelled to my son, 2 daughters, and wife that I found our final stamp; now we needed to find our way back out. My son had a great idea to look up because he could see trees and knew there were trees when we first entered the maze. Through all the frustrations of missing stamps and wandering in circles at times, we laughed and enjoyed the idea that together each one of us helped in our own way.
It was our teamwork and using everyone’s strengths that helped us experience the eventual success. We celebrated finding the early stamps that seemed minimal at the time, but in reality were as important as the last one. We all ran out of the corn maze together. We wrote all our names on the board of completion and reflected on the adventures in the maze throughout the remainder of the day.
The school year is a marathon and at times we run to get to the next milestone, but the lesson of the corn maze is for each member of the team to use his/her strengths to better the team for success. The “stamps” may seem small at the beginning, but they are just as important and worthy of contributing to the celebration and success of the year!!!!
Mike is the Principal of the Athol Community Elementary School, a new learning community opening its doors for the first time in September of 2016. He lives in Barre, MA with his wife and four children. You can follow Mike as he begins his ACES journey on Twitter @mleander23, on Instagram at ACESPrincipal16 or on Voxer @mleand266.
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