Today is the first day of school and despite the fact that I have most of the Fall off, of course I’m going to come be part of the Opening Ceremony. Played the Bulgarian bagpipe to bring kids in under the Balinese flags and they went through the tunnel of teachers singing a song. I introduced the opening gongs from the youngest and eldest, watched the water ceremony, played piano for the Earth Day Rap and then got to give a little talk before leading Gonna Build Me a Mountain. Something like this:
Respect. Responsibility. Wise Choices. Enthusiasm. Effort. All lovely words to post around the school to remind us why we’re here and what our job is. And I predict that for every single person in this room, every child, every teacher, every parent, there will be at least one and probably several and possibly many, many moments when we make a wise choice and give our best effort and show respect for our teachers, our peers, ourselves. There will most likely be times when we surprise ourselves and the people around us with the beauty of our expression or the depth of our insight or the profound question that occurred to us. Times when the way we treat someone will be remembered their whole lifetime and times when the way we treat ourselves will bring us to the best version of ourselves.
But let’s be honest here. There will certainly be moments when we are cruel to our friends, mean to our classmates, disrespectful of our teachers. Times when we make bad and even really bad choices, times when we refuse to make an effort, times when we just frump around taking up precious space on the planet. In short, we will fail miserably to be as good and honorable and wonderful as we could and should be. That’s part of the deal and it’s true for every single one of us.
But what matters is how we react. Do we notice that we could have done better? Apologize? Renew our determination to be better? Forgive ourselves and others? That’s what will make the difference. And that effort to be better two minutes from now than we were two minutes ago—“better” meaning more kind, more insightful, more thoughtful, more accomplished, more expressive, more understanding—that effort is a hard climb up a steep mountain. We’ll have some downhill moments this year where you can just relax and let gravity lead you to “Yeeeeeeeehaaaaaw!!” But mostly you’ll be working out on the mountain path, pushing your dream up that mountain slope so you can find that little piece of Heaven that 300 Gaven St. can be. So here’s the song to remind us and off we go!!!!”
And with those welcoming gestures and fun songs and meaningful movements, the kids went to their classes where the teachers continued their creative and inclusive way of teaching and the day proceeded as predicted—ie, fun, engaging and a great start to the year ahead.
Back in the ceremony, I was standing next to my colleague Sofia while we sang Simple Gifts and amidst all this constant questioning about retirement, there we were singing “…Tis a gift to come round to where you ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right, it will be in the valley of love and delight.” As the summer blogs testify, the Valley of Love and Delight is many places for me, in fact, anywhere where people gather with good intention, good music, good humor, which these days is just about everywhere we go. But I’m happy to report that The San Francisco School is still one of them, is still “the place just right.” And so off we go.