The Infinite Loop of Education

Being in education is a lot like watching the movie Groundhog Day. In the film, the protagonist must relive the same day over and over again until he learns an important lesson about himself that makes him a better person and helps him fall in love, at which point he’s finally able to move on to February 3. (At least, I think that’s the plot of the film. I haven’t seen it since the 90s.)
The difference, of course, is that instead of watching Bill Murray live the same day over and over again, educators watch new students move through the lifecycle of the school year, learning the same lessons (both academic and not), making the same mistakes (both academic and not), forming friendships, finding out who they are, and eventually accruing enough knowledge and wherewithal to graduate on to the next grade-level.

I never really enjoyed movies like Groundhog Day. Perhaps I’m too impatient, but I would find myself frustrated by the predictability of the whole second act, wanting to cut to the chase where the protagonist finally learns the lesson that sets him free to move on to the next day. However, I love being stuck in the perpetual purgatory of middle school. Each student is the hero of her own adventure, and every step along that journey is new and exciting and terrifying, even if countless middle schoolers have gone on similar journeys before. It’s that newness, emotion, and wonder that makes the middle years so magical. 

As Middle School Head, I may wear many different hats in each individual student’s journey. For some, I may be a Gandalf-like mentor—enigmatic, old, and hopefully a little wise. For others, I may be the villain, enforcing rules and making them eat lunch with me when they’ve accumulated too many violations. For others, I may be nothing more than a vague background figure who makes announcements during Middle School meetings and dresses up like Chewbacca because an eighth grader won a raffle.

Despite my relative unimportance in the grand scheme of things, I love witnessing each individual student navigate their way through their own personal Groundhog Day. It’s been a pleasure to join the Ellis community this year and meet this outstanding group of young people, all earnestly making their way through the trials and tribulations of tweendom. We’ve had joys that we’ve celebrated together—the Just Dance competition, Olympiad, Ellis Entrepreneurs, an epic teachers vs. students dodgeball competition, plays, concerts, and sports games—and challenges that we’ve had to overcome together—most COVID-related in one way or another.

What is so clear to me after this year is that Ellis students are resilient, joyful, and open to all that the world has in store for them. As they wrap up this year and prepare to head off to summer, my hope is that they each take a pause, no matter how brief, to appreciate all that they’ve accomplished and how they’ve grown and changed in just a few short months. Whether they realize it or not, every single one of them has learned a lesson, overcome a challenge, or made a lasting friendship that, in one way or another, has earned them the privilege of moving on to the next amazing thing on the horizon. And I look forward to watching it happen all over again next year.