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Column: Making a fresh start for fall

This morning the weather took a strangely cool twist for August. I woke up to 46 degrees for the first time in months. Dewdrops lingered on the lush green of my lawn. Buttery gentle sunlight sparkled on the dew. A busy day lay ahead preparing syllabi for the new courses I'm teaching this fall. It almost seemed like nature responded to this change of pace, scaling back from the poolside heat to a fresh autumn cool.

Back-to-school shopping is in full swing. Last year I discovered Target only orders a small amount of Trapper Keeper folders, possibly because I'm the only person in Dakota County still using a Trapper Keeper. This year I stalked their back-to-school aisle until I hit pay dirt. Now I'm the proud owner of a lifetime supple of snazzy purple Trapper folders.

New school supplies are one of the best parts of going back to school, and arranging them neatly in your backpack does wonders for calming the first day jitters. This fall I'm teaching at a new school, so a few of those back-to-school butterflies are fluttering around my stomach. I feel empathy for all of the Farmington kids starting at a new school this August. There's a lot of questions - will I find my classroom? What if I forget my lunch money? And as always, will the new kids like me?

As a kid I had no idea the first week of school is just as exciting and nerve-wracking for the teachers as it is for the students. Every time I get through that first week alive with my job still intact, I'm exhilarated and exhausted. Usually this means I crash on the couch with a pizza and a movie, my dog lying on top of me, trying to get his muzzle onto the pizza crust.

As the weather turns cool I look forward to that first week with a mixture of trepidation and hope for a good start. The wonderful thing about school, whether you are a teacher or a student, is that every year delivers a fresh start. New clothes, new books, and new Trapper Keeper folders are just a piece of this fresh start. There's also a chance to re-invent yourself, as college freshmen know well. You can dye your hair a new color. You can switch from being a metal head to tree hugger overnight by exchanging your concert t-shirts for tie-dye and hemp bracelets. Anything is possible on the first day of school.

So I relish this mix of nervousness and excitement as I prepare for fall semester. I'm a little worried about the new kids liking me, but I'm grateful for the chance for a fresh start. When I worked in the corporate world there was no such thing. I worked with people that lived with grudges and failures, people who went to work every day angry at someone or something for 10 years or more. Some people looked forward to retirement as their one chance at a fresh start. I knew at least two people in their 40s who had already bought the lake home they planned to retire in, and spent many lunch hours speculating how good the fishing would be. I am thankful every fall for the chance to start fresh, for new beginnings, for a lack of grudges. I hope I never have to retire. Teaching is a whole lot more exciting than fishing.

I hope you have a chance to make a fresh start this fall, whether it's helping your children or your grandchildren plan to go back to school, or going back to school yourself. I hope all of my readers have a chance at a fresh start this year, to begin something new, to forgive grudges and failures. New beginnings are the well-spring of hope and of life. They are what keep us going, and give us appreciation for the bright cool mornings of early fall.