Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Yearly Casting

Good evening.

If you are like me, you want a routine. You want to know what to expect & to have your expectations met. I feel you. The thing is, my schedule at school is not calm this year. I'll see how tomorrow goes, & maybe next week I'll attempt a Monday post. If it eases something for you, pretend you didn't see this & come back & read it tomorrow. As was the case last week, it's now or never for a blog this week.  


That's one of the hardest As I have ever earned. Seriously. 

Item No. 2 on the agenda: In eight days, Dear Miss Moreau will be published. There's a blurb about it on my publisher's website if you're interested. You can read it here ---> Dear Miss Moreau

I want to say a few things regarding change & continuity. Saturday was August 19th. I shared the following on Facebook, & I will repost it here:

I have my father's big hair & penchant for sarcasm, but he can't remember important dates, whereas I can't help but do so. I'm hardwired that way, I guess. I burn dates into some weird part of my memory. 

Prior to last year, I had no special attachment to August 19. Last year on this date, I began teaching at OCS. At some point during that sweltering Friday, while I was meeting some wonderful young people, the body of a friend of mine was found. She, along with one of her infant daughters, had been reported missing. The infant was located; she'd suffered some bug bites but was otherwise okay. My friend died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

This last week during teacher inservice one of the speakers made mention of the various roles of a teacher. I am sure it's true of some other professions as well, but perhaps no one wears more hats than a teacher. This is something I learned quickly last year. I grew in ways I couldn't have imagined possible, & the growth had nothing to do with verbs or symbolism or anything content-related. 

On this August 19, I just want to say to whomever may read, students, parents, fellow teachers, friends, there is a tremendous amount of hurt in the lives of people around you. No, I don't know all the people around you, but I know enough of human nature & sin to know that no one, & no school, is immune to the rot Satan hurls at us. 

Hurt cannot be assigned away. You can't put it in a folder & give it to the counselor or the therapist. My friend was a joy to me during our years in graduate school. She was full of so much life. Her demons sat heavy on my heart last fall; I think they bothered me to the point that I inserted myself in young people's lives in ways I otherwise might not have. 

Last week at inservice it was said that (& I am paraphrasing here) if you get "used up," who cares? If a student takes advantage of your attempt to help, who cares? That's between that student & God; you still do your part. You still do more than your part — because officially your part is to "teach English" — & you expect nothing in return. You're underpaid anyway, right? 

In most cases, students won't use you up. I don't know how anyone teaches without at least a basic understanding of ideas expressed in Luke's sixth chapter, beginning around verse twenty-seven. I won't quote all of it, but the idea is you keep giving. You give, & then you give more. Whether in public or private school, if these verses don't resonate with you, I can't comprehend how or why you teach. I've been reading them & polishing my attitude.

I crave consistency. I like knowing what to expect. In the last year I've learned that you're not going to flourish as a teacher if you can't handle the unexpected. I suppose I learned this lesson first as a mother. This school year began with a few unexpected twists. I am desperate for a routine right now. Friday was a half day for high school, & so the real business of developing a routine begins in the morning. 

A few things happened this past Friday that satisfied my craving for some shreds of consistency in a sea of change. I snapped this of Reagan (ignore the date . . . I just, I need a little time to get myself together, okay):

Kindergarten, 2016:

WEE School, 2015:

I know. I know. I can't handle it. Cannot.

After I dropped Reagan off at her new classroom (after she cast a longing look inside her Kindergarten classroom . . . because she's a lot like me), I made my way to my room. Oh — I should tell you Henry's first day of school is tomorrow, so he was with my parents on Friday. I am not so completely out of touch that I forgot him at home or something equally horrible.

Mid-morning I got a text from a former student that just said, "How's it going??" The subtext of course was, I'm thinking about you today. I know you're a sentimental fool, & I'm hoping you're keeping it together so these new students don't immediately think you're an emotional basket case. 

On the first day of school last year, no one texted me to ask about my tendency to weep instead of confront change head on & conquer the day. His inquiry highlighted one of the benefits of teaching & loving students, & then sending them on their way, namely that you'll find yourself in front of new faces, learning new personalities . . . meanwhile there are reminders of why you're there, of what might possibly bloom in your classroom . . . sometimes literal reminders on your phone. 

I received this last fall:

Subtext: Hey we're exchanging witty banter regarding the Homecoming assembly.
You're late. We saved you a seat. 

I got this Friday.

Subtext: We're obviously sleepy because we're enjoying our newfound freedom & not yet self-regulating well . . . but we wanted to say Hi from Baton Rouge 
(where apparently it was Purple T-shirt Day).

This was a thread of continuity that made me smile Friday despite a host of changes, particularly this new gem hanging in the hall at school.  

I walk past it at least twice a day dropping off & picking up the kids. Maybe in a month or two I won't stop & whimper. 

Some people welcome change. I typically do not, but intellectually I know it's going to happen anyway, & often it is necessary. Last year, I went to bed on August 19th having no idea what had changed in my life. I wasn't yet aware of my friend's suicide. I wasn't aware of how the year ahead would unfold. I was tired. I was ready for college football. I was nervous about the full week of school ahead. I began shedding a thick skin that day, though I wouldn't realize it until much later.

There's an ache that, at least for me, will always accompany change. Sometimes Reagan & Henry watch home videos of themselves. I rarely join them. I just can't. Something in me hurts. I am glad school is in session & most hours of the day my room is filled to the brim, literally, with students. I need their energy & their questions in the room. Their presence reminds me I still have a purpose there.

I sat in my room alone for several hours last week. I did accomplish a few things, but I worked perpetually cognizant of an ache that is just part of life. I am an expert at intellectually understanding things my heart continually rejects. There's nothing left in high school for last year's seniors. Some of them are so smart, there was not a whole lot I could offer them when I met them last August. It was time for them to go. It is time for me to learn seventy-something new names. At least now I know it is possible. You learn names. You learn personalities. You learn quirks. You learn a lot in a handful of months if you're doing it right. You hit a groove, & things click along, & you're all singing Kum-ba-ya . . . & then it is May. I am desperately seeking a groove, recognizing that I probably won't settle into one until I leave the past in the past. Even though I don't teach it, other than to review it with AP in the spring before their big test, maybe it's time for a reread of The Great Gatsby.

When I saw their class picture on the wall for the first time, my immediate thought was of Gatsby's final line. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. It does sometimes feel like I'm fighting the current. Thankfully there are other gems in Fitzgerald's masterpiece. It is my plan to think on this one when I pass the portrait of my first seniors in the hall: Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. Indeed. May we all push through the final dregs of summer & settle into this year's skin.


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