“Auld Lang Syne”: Reflecting at the New Year

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” 

For almost five decades, I’ve heard at least a few bars of “Auld Lang Syne” every New Year’s Eve. But despite some guesses, I never knew what that title actually meant. I finally looked it up. 

The Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” has a few translations. Most directly, it means “old long since,” which means “long long ago.” I personally prefer “days gone by” or “for the sake of old times.”

“Seas between us broad have roared since good old times” 

As the new year dawns, “Auld Lang Syne” invites us to look ahead to the future–to make plans, to create resolutions. 

But this song is a reminder to also consider the past. It is supposed to capture a conversation between two old acquaintances catching up after a long time apart. 

Such connections are nice to rekindle. But I’d make the case that each of us benefits from recalling our pasts and summarizing them for friends. Such reminiscences are a reminder that we have a past, and that it has shaped who we have become. 

“We’ll Drink A Cup of Kindness Yet for Auld Lang Syne”

Whether times are placid or challenging, we move forward. Most importantly, we make decisions. We don’t choose the cards we’re dealt, but we choose how we’ll react to them. 

As we look to our pasts, we should seek out the moments that didn’t go as we’d hoped. From those moments we learn, we grow. And as we face new challenges, we can decide how we feel about them.

I’m not a fan of the “toxic positivity” that seems to pervade the education sphere in various ways. There are lots of events beyond our control, now more than ever, and that creates anxiety. But we have made it this far. Despite the challenges, the problems, the uncertainty. We’ve made it this far. 

“And there’s a hand my trusty friend! Give us a hand o’ thine!”

As we consider our origins, it’s imperative to also consider the people with whom we have associated. What we spend time on and who spend our time with reveals a lot about our character. 

As I think about the recent past, I see quite a bit that should be forgot and never brought to mind. But while the recent past hasn’t had a lot to recommend it, there have been good times. And there have been amazing people that I’ve gotten to know and learn from. 

As we repeatedly have shown ourselves and the wider world, we’re #BetterTogether. And I know I wouldn’t have made it to this point in life without all the help I’ve gotten from the smart, funny, talented, caring, sharing individuals I’ve been lucky enough to encounter along the way.

“We’ve wandered many a weary foot since good old times”

So I encourage you, as the new year arrives, to think about where you have been and how you have arrived where you are. Perhaps this will invite you to reach out to important people from your past. But let it be a time to self-assess. For in order to consider where you want to go, you have to know where you are, and where you have been. 

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Author: Steve Tetreault

Steve has been teaching for over 20 years, mostly middle school English Language Arts. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!



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