Sunday, August 28, 2011
In the two weeks since I stepped back into the world of public education I've heard one question more than any other: Are you excited to be back?
Well, no, as a matter of fact, I'm not. But I don't say that. Not because I'm avoiding the truth, but because being excited is not the point.
The art teacher, my across-the-hall neighbor, was in my room last week introducing himself. Hired the year I left, he's young and clearly loves teaching even more than he loves his own art. He lives and breathes creativity. As I worked to express to him my belief that returning to the classroom will ultimately sharpen my writing, he said the perfect thing:
"Creativity works best under pressure."
It's not a new idea. A John Stewart quote with identical meaning found its way to me early last winter as I struggled to make peace with having to return to teaching.
But it was just one of many moments that are standouts as I've prepared for the first day of school, which is Wednesday.
The teacher desk left in my room was a small blond desk-wannabe that would have held my computer and phone with no surface left to spread out and work. While hunting for other furniture, I noticed a huge scarred dark wood slab buried under a pile of tattered books and torn borders. My desk! The one I had before, and loved. Set up in my room now in all its aged battered glory, it greets me every time I step into the room with a broad welcoming expanse and drawers enough for a paper addict's needs.
Vinnie, our district maintenance guy, was in my room fixing cupboard doors. I asked him if he'd seen the work order to move my projection screen (the focal point of the classroom), the thing I needed done much more than I needed doors tightened. He hadn't received that order yet, but took the time to move the screen while he was there, which made it possible for me to finish setting up my furniture.
I returned to my room during a break from meetings on Friday to find a newer computer on my desk. The tech guy, Chase, has months' worth of work that needs to get done before school starts. He can't walk down the hall without a teacher following him throwing out lists of urgent needs. Despite that, he took the time as he set up my computer, without having been asked, to enlarge what shows on the screen so I no longer have to peer through squinted eyes to read.
Sitting in meetings (five days worth in two weeks), something that usually brings out every resistant bone in my body, has been mostly a pleasure. I hadn't realized how much I missed being surrounded by the wonderful quirks and stories and energies of my fellow travelers. I've laughed more (cried more, too), talked more, absorbed more, in the last two weeks than I have in ages.
Yesterday morning I wrote post cards to my new students. The list changes on a daily basis, but since the first time I saw it early last week, I've already begun to love the names. I've also begun to form pictures of some of the kids as fourth grade teachers look to see which of their kids I got. I have siblings of three former students, all families I'm eager to work with again. As I finished each post card, I would set it aside with a blessing and a prayer for that child, our relationship, and their fifth grade year.
Tomorrow is another meeting day. So is Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon we have "free" to prepare for Open House Tuesday night. Wednesday morning at least 26 ten-year-olds will step into a new year with me. They'll see this quote by Douglas Pagels on the back bulletin board:
"Each new day is a blank page in the diary of life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can."
While I may not be exactly excited to be back, I am confident this year will be full of the best stories I've ever experienced, both mine and my students'. A year of pinnacles to be celebrated, admired, and grateful for. And under all of that, a glimmer of hope that one story in particular will find its way to the surface, and grow into a reality that exceeds my imagination.
Photo of The Pinnacles at Crater Lake taken by Walt.