Every school head and teacher knows the nervous apprehension and excitement in anticipating a new school year. It is the opportunity to do what was not done last year, or to do what was attempted differently, for a better outcome. Leaders sometimes forget that doing what one has always done will likely reap the same result. Taking time to reflect on one’s goals and practice is necessary if a meaningful difference is to be made.
In words generally attributed to the philosopher George Santayana, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” There is a tale that the workshop of the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, containing thousands of items in various stages of development, once burned down. As Edison was by then getting older, it might have seemed to be an insurmountable loss. Yet he was seen pacing around the ruins, seemingly untroubled. A young man summoned the courage to speak to him. When asked about the fire, Edison replied: “Thank God, now we can bury our mistakes and start fresh!” While a disaster such as a fire may force one to start anew, less dramatic events, like the beginning of a new year, give us the opportunity to make a fresh start, learning from the experiences of the past, and building on them to move forward.