The backstory: At the start of 2016, I pulled out my very favorite Miss Read book, Village Centenary. The novel is structured in months and each chapter explores a month in the year of a village school that is celebrating its 100th anniversary. This year, my own school is celebrating its 250th anniversary and as we think of our past and look to our future, I thought that Miss Read would make a lovely companion for me. For each month of 2016, I plan to read Miss Read’s reflection on the month.
Miss Read is a pseudonym for Dora Jessie Saint, an English author who wrote between 1955 and 1996. Her novels were tales of every day life in small English towns. Village Centenary is set in Fair Acre, an imaginary Cotswold community. As is the case in nearly all of the Fair Acre novels, the novel is written in the first person and it is through our narrator, school teacher Miss Read, that the story unfolds.
The British have a saying that “April is the cruelest month,” a reflection of the fact that April is tantalizingly close to May’s flowers and warmth even while the month often features lingering cold and chilly rain. April feels a bit like we are being teased with the promise of warmth to come, even as May still feels a bit out of reach.
April with Miss Read
Miss Read’s April was filled with thoughts of the meaning of her school in the tiny community of Fair Acre. That has been a theme for my April as well. A successful school is a community with foibles and annoyances, to be sure, but also a sense of itself as part of something greater for the presence of us all. As Miss Read contemplates organization of a school celebration to remember the school’s contributions and history over its 100 years, I’ve been thinking of the way that school plays out in the daily life of the middle schoolers with whom I spend my days.
As my middle schoolers come to school each morning, I strive to be in the hall when they pass through the front doors. I offer smiles and good mornings like so many talismans for the start of their day. In this way I can take the measure of my charges and their needs for the day. In April, the students are impatient for warmth and the outdoors; ready to stretch their suddenly longer legs and arms. They are eager for the pleasures of the seasonal change at hand.
A blustery, cold day finds them wilder than usual. Sun and warmth is eagerly absorbed like they are ripening fruit on the vine. One moment they are children, the next they are teenagers. They move back and forth between the two identities with a speed that they themselves don’t understand. One moment they offer a profound thought; the next they look about frantically for a pencil case that looks more like a stuffed animal than a item for school. They are caught between two worlds. They strive to make sense of this intersection of life and the world beyond it, a combination of of fresh and new; warm and cold. They are April and like April, they are lovely in their own charming way.