It’s Always October

Several years ago, when the San Francisco Giants were on their even-year World Series run (2010, 2012, 2014), there was a buzz in San Francisco that heightened our energy levels. It was a fun time to live and work here. And the notion of a heightened energy level seems appropriate for the month of October: the weather is changing; the leaves are turning beautiful colors (in some of the state); school routines are becoming entrenched for the rest of the year; we’re in a rhythm that feels familiar, and there are still so many possibilities for what’s ahead.

What I most remember about the Giants during their playoff seasons were the sweatshirts they wore throughout the month that read, “Always October.”

The literature teacher in me moves straight to interpretation when I see this phrase. Considering it’s the post-season and that it’s the San Francisco Giants, this phrasing could mean a lot of things (especially the way they always torture their fans to the bitter end of each game). However, the way I interpret “Always October” translates into an attitude that can be most helpful in a school context.

Baseball seasons almost span the length of a school year, and the amount of wins and losses over the course of a season oftentimes matches what a teacher might feel as they endure the days and weeks of this work. Some days there are home runs when all the students get the material beyond what one imagined; other days, teachers are striking out and making mid-lesson adjustments to pitch the material appropriately. And yet every day that we come to work, we need to play as if it’s the final game of the season—every day counts as if it’s a pathway to the World Series. And given the world our young people are inheriting, we need to invest in each student as if they have the potential to be the star player, the one who effects change, inspires others, leads and plays with purpose.

In teaching, the phrase “Always October” is apt because the stakes are high; we want our young people to thrive in our schools and classrooms, and each of us is pivotal to the success of those we graduate from our institutions. “Always October” means that we can knock it out of the park by making our classrooms culturally responsive spaces where all students are valued for their backgrounds and identities; that we can differentiate our batting orders and bullpens and players on the field by honoring the different strengths everyone brings to the classroom—and challenging our students to grow beyond what they imagined; that the dugouts are like our classroom environments: encouraging, positive spaces where students are celebrated for their successes and supported for their failings. “Always October” means our schools function as one team in service of our most important players: the students.

Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic for when the Giants were a better team, or maybe I’m reminded that despite the successes and slumps of some of our favorite franchises, there always are lessons to be learned and wisdom to be gained. I’m grateful it’s October so that I can have my yearly reminder of what makes the work we do so powerful and inspiring.

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Lori Cohen: Lori Cohen is the Dean of Faculty at the Bay School of San Francisco. Prior to her current position, Lori taught Humanities, Literature, and Religion/Philosophy at Bay for many years. Lori also coordinates Teacher Development seminars, in-house professional development, for Bay faculty and has begun a Teaching Fellows program that will be entering its third year. This will be Lori’s fourth year as a co-facilitator/teacher leader in Teaching Foundations, a program that brings her joy and professional rejuvenation.