If you moseyed down Main Street in Freeport the past couple of weeks you saw crosswalks filled with parents and kids shopping for back-to-school outfits, pens, markers, notebooks, and L.L. Bean backpacks. Glimpses of leaves turning on the trees could be spotted here and there.

The faces of Regional School Unit 5 kids, parents, and teachers were filled with excitement or various levels of anxiety. Everyone who’s been to school remembers those mixed feelings of what the first few days of school bring.

The sense of a fresh start is one we all embrace; a new beginning, a positive change, a hope for something better from yesterday or last year. Some may hope that all the past year’s troubles with bullying or struggles with learning will disappear with a new start. However, clinging to wishes will not result in dreams coming true unless it is accompanied with the courage and grit to change. We were reminded of what courage looks like recently with the passing of U.S. Sen. John McCain.

In education, new beginnings must start with the courage to forge partnerships between families and teachers, and between students and schools. Attendance laws require that students show up, but it’s the partnership between students and teachers that will determine whether students will learn. Teachers must find ways to open each student’s heart and mind. Parents must find ways to raise children who are responsible, respectful and eager to learn.

We must all have the courage to invest in these partnerships and do our part.

For students, have the courage to:

• Come to school prepared to learn.

• Stand up for those who are bullied.

• Advocate for your own learning.

•  Try your best.

For parents, have the courage to:

• Make sure your child shows up for school and is on time.

• Allow your child to struggle from time to time.

• Trust your child’s teacher.

• Limit your child’s screen time.

For teachers, have the courage to:

• Establish positive relationships with students and families.

• Elicit parental input.

• Provide flexible instruction for students.

• Ensure success for all.

For administrators, have the courage to:

• Engage in difficult conversations.

• Respect the voices of students, parents, and teachers.

• Advocate for what is right.

• Lead boldly in the face of adversity.

Let’s all have the courage to keep the joy of learning alive. School should be rigorous, fun, and engaging. That’s why every September we continue to see kids pouring out of school buses, going to class, and returning for another year. All it takes is a little courage from each of us today to ensure success for all our students tomorrow.

Hemingway reminds us, “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”

Let’s have the courage to establish habits for success today.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected].