It has been too long since I posted anything to this blog. It is not because I have not had anything to discuss. I have. I have. I just haven’t had a MOMENT to discuss, at least in a circumspect way, what has been happening in my life. First, I will begin with a hint.
It’s not gardening. I have bought some plants recently. It’s not even photography, exactly. No, it’s indentured servitude. I am going to be teaching summer school, something that I swore I would never do again after working with it in Deming years ago. I am doing summer school in order to help make our program more effective at placement and completion for all our students who are studying in a second language.
I am also teaching a Senior English section, a job I know will bury me. I have exactly one month to get all the materials and activities lined up and prepared. July will be hectic, and August my regular job will begin again. I will have ten minutes to myself between what I have to do and what I HAVE TO DO. One thing about the yearbook and the coming year, I am becoming more convinced retirement is the thing for me.
It’s funny. I used to have real confidence in myself as a teacher. The truth is I was spoiled. So many students wanted me for a teacher, and so many expressed gratitude for what I did, that I became convinced anyone would want me for a teacher. Not so. Just a couple of days ago, a few friends were telling me they heard a student I had this year referred to me as “mean.” <<MEAN>> Okay. I wasn’t trying for mean, but so be it. I was trying for…well…the best. I have always wanted to be THE BEST TEACHER. For a long time I felt like once I got enough experience and enough training, I would be like that–THE BEST. But, I’m not. I DO my best, but there aren’t any golden apples languishing on my shelves. “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.” I told myself I would retire the moment I got the chance, but it’s my twenty-eighth year, and I’m no closer to being sure I have it right than I was ten years in.
ENOUGH! (moan, moan, moan) I tell you what. I just finished a year that came close to stripping my gears. What next? I have a kid asking me for a favor by e-mail. The e-mail is riddled with errors. I want to yell, “Do you realize you are writing to an English teacher? Do you realize you may as well be forcing me to chew tin foil?” I know. I’m not perfect. No one is. Maybe I should seek to teach this person who clearly needs help. Maybe. Maybe this person needs to hear “no” a little more often. This person clearly was not expecting a refusal. The curt reply to my refusal was clear proof of that. <<MEAN>>
The next time I buy a program to alter photographs, I am going to slap my own hands. I cannot FIGURE how to use them, especially my latest one, called LIGHT ROOM, which does not even offer a SAVE step. What’s with that? My nephew said, “Look on you tube for tutorials.” Fair enough. I did. They taught me all sorts of stuff except where to find and save images. It’s MADDENING. <<MEAN AND INEPT>>
Right now I have low blood sugar. It’s 1800,and I need a cocktail. I don’t plan to be mean with that.
I’m going to take a moment to be you and say let’s examine this a little closer, shall we?
One student calls you <> –right now, in the present, when he’s probably not in a “happy” place. You have absolutely no idea where this student will be ten years from now, or five years from now, or even five months from now. If anything, you probably taught this student something he or she will remember forever and grow from and become better by and will, some day, thank you for…
And if not, you have hundreds upon hundreds of students who do say, HANDS DOWN, you are the best <> teacher they’ve ever had. I’m one of them. When I was a teacher, you taught me to be thankful for the one student I had who appreciated me (I believe you compared it to Jesus and the lepers. How many came back to say thank you to Jesus? To JESUS!) And you have 9 students coming back to you saying thank you and one who doesn’t. I think that says something pretty spectacular.
And it’s okay to say no sometimes, too, in the realm of responsibilities. God carries the weight of the world on His shoulders so you don’t have to.
Strictly speaking, it’s not cricket to quote my words back to me, but you are sweet to do so, sweet and smart as you always have been.
the html code rejected my phrases. The first was “mean” and the second was “best.”
Why do all the really great teachers want to retire? Gug. Oh, do e-mails count with regard to errors?
Perhaps you need a break. Not just one cocktail, but maybe a day in a cool clime with a book and … pick your poison. Forget the chin up, head down. (However do you do that anyway?) Know that you are dear to many.
I really can’t say it as well as Jen did, but…
You are the best. You have been and always will be, to me and to so many others. You taught me in a way that made me want to learn, and made me want to KEEP learning. I had never had an experience like that before. It changed me.
You also challenged me more than any teacher ever has— you challenged how I thought, how I wrote… but in ways that made me better. Some people sadly mistake challenge for meanness. I, however, always knew that a challenge from you meant something needed to be learned. It meant that you had enough faith in me to figure it out. It meant that you cared— not just about teaching me, but shaping my character. Teachers who always just GIVE the answers aren’t teaching.
I can’t thank you enough for the impact you’ve had on my life. I hope you are able to find some time to spend on yourself before the school year hits, and you’ve definitely earned some rest… but it scares me to think what the world will be like without you teaching, and without teachers like you.
Thank you, Darling Girl. Your concern for me makes me feel especially blessed.
Eva-You are an amazing person and teacher. What you didn’t put here is how hard you have worked to ensure that the students in the summer program will be prepared for success in the Fall. So, in the end are we to judge our lives by someone saying we are ‘mean’ or should we press forward with the attempt to make a difference in the world. You are about to make an indelible impression on these summer students and one, even if they don’t realize it now, that will change the trajectory of their lives forever.