Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Ennui

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with winter.

On the one hand, there is something really amazing about looking out the window and seeing this sparkling blanket of white. It's a moment where the beauty of nature really can be a little overwhelming. I love the clothing of winter. I'm at my most comfy in a turtleneck or at least rocking some layers. I love the feeling of sleeping all snuggled up under the blankets with flannel sheets. I love hot chocolate and nice hearty soups that just don't seem to pack the same punch during warmer months. Add to that the fact that winter is speech season, basketball, and football playoffs, and there is a lot to love about winter.

And yet.....

I hate driving in the winter. I hate that perpetual feeling of NEVER being quite warm enough. I hate constantly planning everything around the weather and its lack of consistency and predictability. I hate looking out the window and seeing grey slush everywhere. I miss grilling out. There is quite a lot to hate about winter.

Being a teacher during the winter carries a lot of added bummers. As soon as a single flake of snow falls, all my students can seem to talk about is snow days -- theorizing whether we'll have one, predicting early dismissals. Heaven forbid the snow should actually accumulate and school NOT be canceled, for then the teacher's life becomes this barrage of "This school sucks" that all seem to be leveled right at you despite the fact that you have absolutely zero control over whether or not school is canceled and, truthfully, were probably hoping for a snow day just as much as the kids were.

Being the brunt of student frustration, though, is a fact of life for a teacher. I sometimes envy elementary school teachers who seem to have days filled with coloring and hugs and adoration. (I recognize the job of an elementary school teacher is probably just as frustrating as mine, but you know... the grass is always greener and all that jazz.) There are days where I feel completely futile after having students vent and argue and challenge hour after hour. When you are passionate about what you teach, it can be downright heartbreaking to not even get a modicum of faked enthusiasm from students. It can be hard to have your attempts to help students better themselves be met with sarcasm and hostility. Some days, you just want to go home and cry. Believe me; I have. I have cried because huge numbers of students have failed a test or slept rather than complete an assignment or looked at me with this creepy mixture of hatred and disdain for assigning homework. I have cried because my speech class has absolutely no desire to actually give a speech. I have cried because I've been called a bitch -- both to my face and behind my back. I have cried enough tears in this job to flood a small village.

So what keeps the teacher in the job other than the paycheck? Well, there is that passion. I love the fact that I get to spend my days reading Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Moliere, Bradbury, and more. When you get that lone kid or two who gets just as involved in the text as you are, well, that's just golden. I love the time I get to spend with a lot of my students, although I still am a bit amazed that some of these kids not only like me but consider me "wise." I love Speech Saturdays and hearing the absolute rush of excitement of kids on the way to competition and on the way home after a successful day. I love rehearsals and performances. I appreciate the trust that students place in me, and I value their respect more than they can know.

And then there are the moments when you really feel like you've made a difference. Sometimes, you figure it out right away -- a kid who "gets it" after a lesson, a student who sticks around after class to talk to you about a problem or just to talk a little more about the day's reading. Other times, it takes a little longer. One of the nice things about winter is that, along with snow and ice, it also brings recent graduates home from college. Their freshman year, especially, those kids often make the high school a stop on their home tour. Suddenly, you are face to face with these adults who have been out in the world a little, adults who find themselves feeling the effects of your teaching in their ability to discuss a novel in class, identify the kinds of theatrical stages, or put together a coherent essay or speech. Even if your role in their current success is a tiny fragment, there is still a chance for you to kind of sit back with a sigh and think, "I have not failed that child."

That alone is enough to beat the winter ennui....for now.

1 comment:

NICKI said...

I should probably speak for my sister to say that elementary school teaching has perhaps different, but still many, ups and downs. I tend to be more of a soundboard for the negative, but I feel teaching is an extremely thankless job. So, thank you, when I read blogs like this, I know that someone still cares!