Saturday, May 31, 2003

Getting Better All The Time

It's no secret I'm tired; I've been saying so for days and days and hardly blogged at all. But today was mostly running around, then sitting in the middle of a surrounded stage for three hours in my suit waiting to hand out a single prize for the Senior Class day assembly, and helping people find their way into and through the Commencement Eve Dinner Dance, an event moved indoors -- like all other graduation weekend events -- due to hurricane-severe winds and rain coming in from the stormy midwest.

I've been on the go since 10:30, and it's 9 again now. On Saturday. And to tell the truth, it felt like a day in the park.

Some people think that teachers have got it easy. Maybe it's just been awhile since they themselves were in school; maybe they're members of that scarily large percentage of the population that just doesn't get it in general. Maybe they see their kids get home while the sun is still high, long before their own tired arrival, and assume that their teachers' days end with their kids'. Maybe they've just watched too much Boston Public, where the seats around the table in the teachers lounges are always full, and, although the teachers complain about being tired and overworked, they have plenty of time to sit in bars afterhours and relax.

Probably, though, they just don't realize what the job entails.

I work a twelve-hour day six days a week from September to June: classes in the mornings, media center coordination and minor courses in the afternoons, dorm duty at night, working with teachers to tinker with their pedagogy in amongst it all. On my occasional day off I tend to spend an hour or two chasing email, helping with homework, unlocking doors for the kids in the hall. To-be-graded papers stack up on my desk; I average five hours of sleep a night. And when you live with your students and coworkers, you're never truly away from work. Leaving the house means donning the invisible mantle of authority figure and community elder; any contact with teachers is an opportunity for them to ask a question on teaching and technology; just getting the mail or eating in the dining hall means stepping into the role-model-role.

To top it all off, we do work we love so that our charges might leave us with that love. Our communities grow only to dry up, peel, and drift away in the wind every summer. It's a shock to the system, a tear at the heart.

Today, the seniors and their teachers and parents stood as a family and cried together while the valedictorian told us of her own family, trapped by Sars in a Hong Kong province, ten thousand miles away. Tomorrow they will blow away like so much fine sand in the hurricanne.

I saw a mug once in one of those cheesy knick-knack mallstores that said the three best things about teaching are June, July, and August.

And, while it is true that the best things in life are time, and the timelessness of the family moments to come, Darcie and the baby and me on the small rug dragged out to the lawn, while the cat climbs the maple tree and the dog licks herself in the grass, in a true vocation -- and good teachers can't afford for it to be any other way -- the time we spend nurturing our charges is the best of all, for it is time planted for a richer harvest, a better universe of kids who make a difference. And that's not easy. Not at all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:06 PM |

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