Back to School

Red Apple

It’s that time of year again: there’s a slight chill in the air, the leaves on the trees are starting to change color, and today thousands of students in D.C. headed back to school.

Here at PEN/Faulkner, we have our share of back-to-school jitters. In the downtime between setting up visits for the fall, I’ve been ordering new sets of books, and cleaning off my admittedly cluttered desk. It reminds me of the days, not so long ago, when this time of year was associated with new pencils, uncreased notebooks, and covering textbooks with old, paper grocery sacks.

September seemed so full of possibilities, that I got in the habit of making resolutions to commemorate each new school year. Each year I promised myself to keep organized 3-ring binders with color-coded tabs to signify each subject area. More often than not, by October, I was carting around a backpack full of loose, wrinkled papers and getting looks of consternation from my teachers as I sifted through the mess to find my homework assignments. It was definitely not what I’d had in mind when I ransacked the shelves at Staples only a month before.

Even though I could never seem to find that foolproof organizational system that would keep me in line (see: admittedly cluttered desk), each school year did seem to deliver on that September promise of change and growth. There is no way that I could have known at the beginning of eleventh grade, that I would read Their Eyes Were Watching God, which would eventually become one of my favorite novels, and a book that I return to again and again. So, maybe my 16-year-old vision for a color-coded index card for each page I read over the entire year (a real goal) did not work out (I quit after a particularly dry chapter in my Trigonometry textbook), I did find something in school that—not to sound dramatic— changed my life.

As I go into this new school year, I’m approaching it with that open-mindedness. I’ll set goals for myself, organizational and otherwise, and I’ll have a plan in my mind of how I want those goals to unfold. But life has a way of deviating from expectations, and it’s those surprises that offer the biggest opportunities for learning. So, here’s to the 2013-2014 school year and everything that it has in store!

— Ariel Martino