Oh, The Places You’ll Go!


“And they’re off!” And much like stallions and fillies at the start of a race, another school year has begun. As I write this article, we are a single day past Hump Day (i.e., Thursday) in the first full week of school.

Typically, I hate starting a year on a Monday. The first week of school is one of the three toughest weeks in a school year, possibly only exceeded by the week before Christmas and the week before the end of school. 

Granted, students and teachers are tired by Thursday of the first full week of school; however, this school year has had a wonderful start up. MS Bailey Child Development Center increased enrollment by another class of 4K students; the three elementary schools worked through car lines, bus routes, and instructional routines; the middle and the high school worked through class changes, teacher class loads, and procedural guidelines. Teachers, students, administrators and parents felt the surge of new non-summer routines, earlier bedtimes, and the return of homework.

Truth be told, this is my thirty-eighth first week of school and I am still as giddy, nervous, and eager as I was the first year back in prehistoric 1982. At the beginning of a school year, I am drawn to Dr. Seuss’ last book Oh the Places You’ll Go!

The first sentences of the book are “Congratulations! Today is your day, You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away.” And it is…we all celebrate a new school year. Whether it be the look of new clothes, new accessories, new school supplies, or new shoes, we all rally around the “congratulations.” New teachers, new administrators, and new facilities stand ready for a new year.

“Today is your day” is the second line. What a powerful line this is! If more people chose to take active steps to make every day a great day, how much better we would all be. Taking ownership or one’s actions, one’s learning, and one’s decisions are the critical first steps for success in school and, yes more importantly, in life.

“You’re off to great places” is the third line. A good education is a journey to a desired destination. Too often adults regret what they didn’t do (or in some cases did) in school that hindered learning, that kept them from a particular “great place.” We must reaffirm the purpose of learning — whether in a classroom or on an athletic or academic team — and calibrate our direction with a “great place” mindset. Of course, one only arrives at his/her “great place” by making the most of their days. It is no accident “Today is your day” precedes “You’re off to great places.” What we make of our time is largely a determinant to our destination.

The last line, “You’re off and away,” indicates action and intention. A new school year remains new for only a short while; however, the persistence and perseverance implied are critical attributes of an effective life. Advocating growth through adversity comes down to resiliency and grit. The most important learning in school is rarely found in a book or a class. It often comes from relationships with others and avenues of collaborative learning. 

Fast forward to the last lines of the book and you see a similar message and cadence. “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

This school year is still in its infancy and many academic, athletic, and extracurricular challenges await. We all have mountains to cross, hills to climb, and valleys to navigate. But the excitement of a new year, coupled with determination, grit, and direction, make all of us better “mountain climbers.” 

May we rejoice in the start of a new year. Why?

Because “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”


(Dr. David O’Shields is District 56 Superintendent.)


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