Cowboy Boots

“Now you can start wearing cowboy boots!”

It’s a running joke, foisted upon me by a friend and fellow principal who described the benefit of starting a new job. “They don’t really know you,” he explained a lifetime ago when I moved to a new school. “If you show up on your first day wearing cowboy boots, they won’t ask why, they’ll just know you as the guy who wears cowboy boots.”

“But I don’t wear cowboy boots,” I answered.

“No, but you could!”

I received an email from him again when I got my new position this summer, one line: “Cowboy boots?”

Now, I will not be showing up on my first day wearing cowboy boots, or sporting a beard, or any of the other options for a new look. I’m pretty comfortable with the imperfect, sneaker wearing person I currently am. That email, though, got me thinking about the great opportunity we have each year as educators to start fresh, redefining (at least in part) who we are and how we work with kids, parents, and each other.

Our superintendent likes to greet us all each August with a hearty “Happy New Year!” And it is. Summers have a way of washing away the accumulated grime of a rough and tumble school year, and as teachers and students return to school in the fall they bring with them the feeling that great things are possible.

Not every profession has this fresh start built into it, but it truly is one of the nice realities of education. We bring with us all the wisdom we gathered and built over the past year (and years) and add to that the energy that comes from having a few weeks away from our usual workaday world.

Like our students, we have an opportunity to set goals for the year ahead and begin again. This isn’t to say that we’re completely different people than we were in June, but we do have the possibility to define ourselves for a new group of students, and even for ourselves, in a way that brings us a little closer to being the people we aspire to be.

So I prepare to enter my twenty-second year in education with a fresh outlook, new ideas, and an old pair of shoes.

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