Early August on a high school campus is hot and a little lonely. As a principal, I get back before most, and until folks start drifting back from summer vacation it’s just me, my assistant, and a skeleton crew of twelve month employees coming to school to get things ready for the start of a new year.
That preparation includes everything from organizing our “Taking Care of Business Days” to making sure that the master schedule is the best that it can be. There’s also work to be done preparing for the opening staff meeting, planning ways to bring our campus community closer together, and this summer the steady growl of heavy machinery as construction crews work on two big projects that will make our school better in the long term, but right now constitute a hard hat zone.
Even so, I love early August for the promise of possibility it brings. IT’s now that administrators like me have the relative quiet to set goals and make the plans that will help guide our year. September through June is run at a gallop; August trots.
To mix metaphors, early August is the gesso on the canvas of the year. Oil painters know that to create a work that will last, the canvas needs to be properly prepared. The best painters spend the time necessary applying gesso, the chalky white undercoat put on a canvas, to create a place where the brilliant colors will appear. Like those painters, the preparations we do now allow for the layers and layers of color that will emerge over the months ahead.
I don’t know what this year’s image will look like yet, nor what colors will fill the proverbial canvas, but I honestly believe that the preparations of August can help to make a true difference come September, January, and May.
So as my intrepid assistant sends out letters of welcome and the men in yellow safety vests and plastic white helmets move the earth around us, my thoughts turn to the painting that will follow this month’s gesso.
The real fun begins as students and teachers begin coming back to campus. Soon.