September is the beginning of all good things. This month begins the best days of summer, when we savor each day of sun like it might be the last. It marks the beginning of fall, of harvest season, of weather made for coffee and dark, malty beer. It starts our school year and returns us to work from our vacations. Nothing ends in September but the complacency of leaves that only favor wearing green.
I was born in September, and of all twelve months, I love it the most.
My older boys, in 1st grade and in preschool, have both wondered why September and autumn don’t coincide more precisely. This confusion has only compounded with the advent and addition of school to their schedules. Why don’t they start together?
The answer is, September likes to space things out. Bridging summer and fall as it does, it understands the value of savoring discrete changes, lined up all in a row from Labor Day to the onset of our wetter weather in October. September brings the first day of school, the first real notice of darker skies and early-arriving dusk, the first demand for a sweater or coat, the first real cold or rain, the first actual day of fall.
In the northwest, September is the best kind of teacher, one willing to go with you into the dark territory ahead, not promising that there won’t be a fall, but that it won’t be the end.
For many reasons, I have a perpetual love for education and for teachers. All the good things that quality education can afford I have been blessed enough to experience: caring adults, an atmosphere of inquiry, the encouragement of peers, and the enthusiasm of teachers strong enough to pass it on to their students.
Not all the teachers I had were perfect or even good, but even bad teachers made me want to learn something, even simply to oppose them.
I had one teacher in high school who inspired me to read the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy because I discovered that she had not read all of it herself, even though she was teaching it that term. Because of that teacher, I fell in love with Dante’s philosophically precise descriptions, went on to read La Vita Nuova (his treatise on poetry and love) and further confirmed my own path toward becoming a poet – a path I hope I am still on today.
I had another teacher, this time in college, who convened our tiny class in a coffee shop, instead of on campus. Simply meeting with him in the world outside academia’s walls spoke volumes to me about the boundlessness of learning environments, and how deep thought could be undertaken almost anywhere. I drank it up.
I asked a few friends to give me their personal list of favorite teachers and why they chose them. I encourage you to think of your own list. Themes of care, engagement, and investment easily emerged from their comments:
“She was an expert at getting the students involved and interested in participating.”
“She had a genuine interest in not just the students’ education, but their development as people.”
“His personality was so frustrating, I had to start thinking for myself on all sorts… of topics.”
“He was willing to go out on a limb with me.”
The last one delights me. It’s not “willing to go out on a limb for me,” as you’d expect, but “with me.” A great teacher goes with you on the journey. They lead the way and model interest, engagement, challenge and risk-taking. They are the leaf unafraid to fall.
Soon the weather will turn to our local quintessence, cloudy with a chance of rain. This week, my oldest son is back to school, spending every day indoors with teachers and books. Change is coming. I hope that on the first crisp morning before school, my son takes a deep breath, is braced by the change in weather, and enjoys September in all its glory.