By Joanne Marshall

Happy New (School) Year! Resolutions Instead of Big Fat Mental Whining

There is an old education cartoon where a woman is standing in front of a body huddled under the bedcovers, just its toes peeking out, saying, “I know the kids don't like you and they pick on you, but you have to go to’re the teacher.”

I think of that cartoon this time of year, substituting, “I have to go to school...I am the professor.” Yes, I am happy about the beginning of the academic school year, with new students and great colleagues and a nifty new notebook (purple! With polka dots!). But I also really love summer. I love having lunch with the kids, and going to the pool, and knocking out some household tasks like painting the bathroom. I love that we took a big family road trip. Yes, I worked too — those deadlines never go away and “summers off” don’t really happen — but I worked with great flexibility and better weather and in shorts.  Outside. In the sun. 

This summer was wonderful. And so my response to the idea of the new school year has also been Big Fat Mental Whining. 

I have needed some resolve to get going and embrace the school year. I have needed a New (School) Year’s resolution.

I understand the rest of the world observes the calendar year for the New Year and its resolutions, and thus spends January going to the gym. But for me the New Year starts in August. It’s now — as committees begin to convene again, and we have half-day organizational retreats scheduled, and I’m trying to prepare for class, and the emails increase, and the deadlines are still there — that I really want to huddle, metaphorically, under the covers of summer. I’ve been praying for that resolve, because it has not been coming on its own. 

And the Lord provides. A couple of weeks ago, our church had a commissioning service for the high school youth group before they went on a mission trip.  Words from the commissioning struck me:

Will you serve God and the people
with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love,
relying on God’s mercy and rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit?

—From the PCUSA’s Book of Occasional Services

Yes. Or at least I will try, with God’s help. Those words have become my resolution for this new school year. I’ve been praying them together and separately: Help me to serve. Help me to serve God. Help me to serve the people. Please provide me with energy (this is my most common prayer: Please Lord, some more energy?). With Intelligence. Imagination. Love. Help me to rely on and rejoice in you, Holy Spirit. Amen.

What’s your resolution this year?

Happy New School Year!

About the Author

Joanne M. Marshall is a former high school teacher and a current associate professor of educational administration at Iowa State University. Her long-term research agenda is driven by the question of how people's internal values and beliefs relate to their public school roles, particularly in the areas of religion/spirituality, moral and ethical leadership, philanthropy, social justice pedagogy, and work-life balance. She holds an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has published articles in The Journal of School Leadership, Equity and Excellence in Education, Educational Administration Quarterly, The School Administrator, and Phi Delta Kappan. She is the lead editor of Juggling Flaming Chainsaws: Faculty in Educational Leadership Try to Balance Work and Family and editor of the Work-Life Balance book series from Information Age Publishing. More information is available at her website.

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