As I had promised, I went to wake up my son at precisely 6:30, murmuring “Mom’s in the shower. Do you want me to grab you some breakfast?” My heart leapt at his mumbled “Sure.” before he turned over and went back to sleep – my last chance for a while to slice strawberries over yogurt and add a small serving of chocolate chips, his daily breakfast for most of the summer. I stepped over the Magic cards he had uncharacteristically left on the floor after the late-night game he had asked me to play (for the first time in many years – was he thinking, as I was, about the passage of time?), and walked to the kitchen. The car was already packed tightly with everything he’d need in his dorm room at Andover, and departure was set for 7:30. After breakfast and a shower, he ran around gathering up last minute items. “I love you, Dad.” he said and in our neo-Bill Cosby ritual, I responded, “I love you too. What do you need?” “Well,” he said with a wicked grin, “my computer isn’t going to put itself in my backpack.” I stood up to take care of it; a kiss and a hug later, he folded himself into the passenger seat. As my wife started the car, my eyes moistened but my smile remained determinedly bright. His own eyes were clear – as he’d said the night before, “I love you, but I’m glad the summer’s over.” Fun and friends were at the other end of the drive, and he couldn’t wait.

Driving to Stoneleigh-Burnham, I couldn’t help but think how many houses would be witness to similar scenes in the upcoming days. Caught up in my own thoughts and feelings, I had temporarily forgotten that RAs and Blue Key members were arriving today. Following our morning faculty meetings, shouts and squeals began to fill the corridors with increasing frequency, and the first of 50 billion “How was your summer?”s were heard. As overjoyed as they were to see their friends again, the students were also excited about seeing the faculty. After one returning 8th grader gave me a hug, grinning from ear to ear, her friends commented wrily, “Good job. You handled that well.” Apparently, she had nearly knocked over the previous teacher she had greeted, carried away by the force of her emotion.

We have had good faculty meetings – for one, we took extended time to think deeply about our school’s mission, how each of us is doing in fulfilling that mission, and what goals we each could set for the future. Those goals will be placed in a binder so we can begin to form support networks in helping each other remain focused and make progress, and there will be more conversations in the future. It is powerful work in many ways, and stimulating. However, as much as I love working with the middle school team, without the students, there quite literally is no point. And now, they are back.

Now, the fun – and work – really begins. Now, it’s a school again.