The Smell of Newly Sharpened Pencils

There’s something about the smell of newly sharpened pencils… the feeling of cracking open a new notebook…a full bottle of glue without crusted goo around the top.


A new school year started here a few days ago. My boys may not have been as excited about it as my husband and I were, but without a doubt there was a sense of anticipation and freshness the day the bus was scheduled to start arriving again.


The beginning of a school year is like January 1st, or that day in spring when the first buds appear on the trees. We are rewarded with the chance to start again, to tabulate where we’ve been and reach for what’s next. Whether you have children in school or not, a new school year is a reminder to take the opportunity to assess where your team has been and where it’s headed.

The obligatory first-day picture is always taken on the front porch of our home. The boys stand near the pillars, and I snap a quick (and begrudged) photo. I can look at it next to the one from last year, and the year before, and easily see how much they have grown.


Have you taken a “picture” of your team lately? Sure – a physical picture, too – I am all for a visual reminder of a team having fun together, working together, and growing together. But have you evaluated your team’s growth over the last season? Do you know where you started? Can you see how far you’ve come? It’s time to celebrate the growth that you and your team have enjoyed – growth in numbers, growth in unity, growth in vision, growth in teamwork.


Along with new pencils, notebooks and glue come new clothes, new backpacks, new teachers, new friends. A new year gives my boys the chance for a fresh start. The teacher he didn’t get along with last year? She’s not his teacher this year. He gets to start again. The friends who treated him in a less-than-kind way? He has the opportunity to make new friends. The grades that weren’t as high as he would have liked? He gets to start anew with different classes.


When was the last time you allowed your team a fresh start? We all need the option to leave the past behind and forge ahead with the intention of making a different impression. Maybe you’re in a rut – unable to see different results. Maybe you’ve become stuck in the way you treat your teammates – and it’s less than optimal. Maybe you have had a season of being inwardly focused, and you crave the chance to turn that around. It’s time to allow yourself and your team a fresh start.


No matter how much my boys love the newness of a school year, there is always an air of slight hesitation. Because a new school year means that change is coming. Some changes are great – all the “fresh start” opportunities we talked about above. But some changes are hard – waking up early again, changing schools, mastering new routines.


As you begin this new season with your team, anticipate that you’ll be adjusting to some changes ahead. Good changes will happen – like adding new members to your team, setting new goals, or finding ways to grow together. But hard changes will be a part of this season, too. You may lose a teammate. You may struggle with figuring out how to take your team through this next season. You will undoubtedly have to choose the good of the team over your own preferences occasionally. But without change, we will never see different results than those you are seeing today.



As this school year gets underway, I’m looking forward to celebrating how my boys have grown, reminding them of their moment to start new, and guiding them through the changes that crop up along the way.


And as my team enters a new season, I will do the same. How about you?


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