Wishes for the New School Year


A college student holding her books and bag.Whenever a new school year starts, I find myself filled with hope. Hopes for myself. Hopes for my students. Hopes for the parents of my class.

As a university professor, I am entrusted with caring for and educating your nearly full-grown children. Each fall, I see the freshmen/women moving in, with their parents often holding back tears. And I want to say that while I have not yet gone through this yet, I can imagine your feelings as you leave your children in the hands of others.

So, if this year, as you are sending off your students into a new school year, whether they are starting pre-k or you are dropping off a college student, I want to reassure you that we’ve got them! We have been trained in our disciplines and in supporting their social, emotional, and general academic needs. Last year’s theme supported your student’s social and emotional needs, and all that we learned is still available for your kiddos. Throughout the educational hierarchy, tremendous support structures have been created that didn’t exist when we were going through these transitions. And please remember that everything will be okay.

As we begin this year, I hope your children blossom in their learning processes. That they find topics they love and spark their passion, may they change their minds and get excited about topics they never imagined. I dream that they conceive ways to change the world and how much better it will be when they are in charge.

I also wish that they find new friends that understand deeply and that these friendships will grow with them as they change and grow. At the same time, I hope they can maintain their existing ones. And for the new college students, I hope their friendships (old and new) are those they will cherish for a lifetime and that they will withstand the challenges of academics, social pressures, and distance that sometimes develop as we age.

For you, my parents, I hope your kids are secure in your love enough to bravely take a few steps away from you so they can learn about themselves. If they are college students, I hope they call home enough to calm your fears but become grounded enough in their college environments that they don’t call too often. Through whatever stage you are growing through, I hope you smoothly renegotiate your parent-child dynamic to embrace their ever-growing independence.

With each step along their growth, I hope that you find wonderful ways to reclaim yourself bit by bit. Reallocating the time you previously spent taking care of your child so that you start to remember your passions that may have been set aside as you prioritized care for little ones. I wish you feel liberated by the growth you and your child are both experiencing.

And I have a few wishes for myself and other teachers, too. I hope that we not only create great classroom environments where your child can speak up and learn new things but that we also help them see the beauty of the world through a new lens. That we help them find their voices if they are shy and that we help them remember to listen carefully to others if they are more outgoing.

And I also hope that I can inspire some people to believe they can belong in STEM (because I am a scientist, after all), even if they never envisioned that as a possibility. And if they aren’t thrilled with their STEM classes, I hope they at least learn a few things and understand that we aren’t all mad scientists trying to take over the world. In fact, more of us are trying to make it better.

Wherever you are on this journey, I am sending you all of my best wishes as you start this new school year.

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Erika is a professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and mom to two kids (2010 and 2013) plus two cats (2005 and 2019). A Midwestern transplant who has lived in 32 places, she has happily called Fairfield her home for the past 12 years. At work, she directs a program to support first-generation and underrepresented student success in science. In town, she can often be found driving her kids back and forth to their respective sporting events and teams or sitting in a coffee shop using the wifi to get a little work done before pick up. Erika loves spending time enjoying the water, cooking, theater, reading, and hanging out with her husband.


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