As I reflect on my first few days in my new school community I recall something that one of my new administrators said last week, “entering a new school community is similar to traveling to a foreign country.” And what I have realized is he’s absolutely right.
On Wednesday, I entered Cathedral School for Boys, equipped with 19 prior years of experience, 11 of which were in an a different all boys school in San Francisco. I had woken up early after a night of restless sleep, likely due to that nervousness and anticipation that a lot of teachers have on that last night of summer. My morning routine was no different than years past and my lesson plan for day 1 (have fun and get to know the students) was also quite similar. But as I approached my new school I immediately felt that despite spending the last 7 days preparing to be at Cathedral (in some ways the last 6 months), I was simply in a foreign space and frankly the feeling was not much different than a foreign country.
All of sudden I started to wonder…
Who are these people?
How am I supposed to act?
What am I supposed to do next?
Where am I supposed to be?
Where do I get this or that?
What are they thinking?
Who am I supposed to know?
When I looked into the sea of students and parents I didn’t know a soul. I entered my first all school chapel not knowing if I was supposed to sit, stand, clap or sing. I didn’t know what door to exit or enter, what was the fastest way to the bathroom or what time people not on duty ate lunch. I wasn’t sure where my mailbox was, who keeps chocolate in their classroom/office or where in the neighborhood I could grab a quick diet coke.
Immediately on day 1 I had to go into observation mode to pick up social cues to allow me to respond to my new setting. I quickly discovered that despite a few emails and information about some students that I would be teaching I couldn’t pick them out of a room yet, in fact I was barely even comfortable finding the next room I was meant to be in.
Learning about the culture and climate of a school is no different than learning about the culture and climate of a foreign country. This only further proves that we need to teach our students to be globally and culturally competent so that they can adapt to new environments in the future. They need the tools to know how to deal with adversity, cope, be able to effectively communicate, empathize, and observe without judgement to name a few. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how many guidebooks you read, or how many places you have travelled before, when you enter a foreign land you are going to realize things you could not predict or anticipate and things you can only learn by being there wholeheartedly.
I am learning a tremendous amount from this experience and each day I have “aha” moments that bring me a step closer to understanding this new land, Cathedral School for Boys. Year 20 is going to be all that and more!