Saturday did not get off to a promising start. My eyes bleary, I descended the stairs to a constant chorus of meows from two cold and hungry cats, glancing out the window to notice the day was grey and my right front tire flat. As I walked to the kitchen, I noticed my backpack was bulging in an alarming fashion even though the majority of my work is done online.

Ah, well, I thought, and decided the tire would still be there after breakfast and I might as well enjoy the day while I could. So, as the smell of brewing coffee wafted in to the living room, I ate a yogurt as I scanned the night’s email and read morning headlines. Notes from two of my best friends reminded me that the National Middle School Association conference in Indianapolis is only a few weeks away and I will get to spend time with amazing and inspirational educators. I sent virtual flowers to my wife, and she called in to say good morning and have a chat.

The weather outside proved to be pleasantly cool, and the tire almost changed itself. A motorcyclist stopped by to ask for directions, showing me a beautiful fall image of the church in my home town. I noticed the sky was the perfect backdrop for the brilliant colours of the leaves around me. I drove to Greenfield, and Tire Warehouse took me almost immediately; less than an hour later I was on my way with four brand new tires and a orange and pink carnation stuck in a cup-holder. I was delighted to notice I had time for a run, and fairly flew through an eight mile course that had left me nearly dead one day in the not-too-distant past. A toasted Veggie Delite sandwich at Subway. A long talk with my mother-in-law. The chance to see my son run in his first high school varsity cross country race and to go out to dinner with him. And, once I was back home, plenty of quality time reading through my students’ work, noting their thoughts on how well they were progressing, thinking on what we had accomplished during Friday’s class and how best to follow up on Monday, brainstorming ideas on how to support one of my advisees who had come to me to talk about that unsettling sense that childhood is fleeting and adulthood elusive which is so common among young adolescents (and, come of think of it, among their parents as well). On a day that had not started all that auspiciously, I fell asleep thinking how lucky I am.

Middle schoolers seem to have a natural instinct toward making your own luck. At an age where two months can seem like ages in the future, it is so much easier to live in the moment, recognize the possibilities of each brand new day and make the most of them. They are by no means unrealistic – discussions in my Humanities 7 class as we consider various readings or plan new units show an almost heartbreaking awareness of what people can do to each other, and to the world, when at their worst. But, when they are wakening to a deeper and deeper awareness of all that lies within them, it is easier for them also to find hope and beauty in the world around them. They have different ways of expressing this – one 8th grader remarking with some acerbity “Oh, I am so going to change that” when she learns about the gender gap in wages, a 7th graders’ eyes sparkling when she learns that she, too, can write the president and share her thoughts, even something as simple as vowing “Okay, this week I am going to turn absolutely everything in on time.” – which can lead, one week at a time, to a positive habit of mind that will serve well throughout life. But under it all, these students have a fundamental desire to be agents of positive change, and a growing awareness of their ability to do so.

One of the most important goals of Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School is to nurture and develop this ability, that throughout adolescence and into adulthood these girls will know and understand they have control of their lives, they can make their own luck. Even when their tire is flat.

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