There is truth to the lovely old cliché, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Here was my ” Back to School To-do list” from last summer:
1. Research life/teachings of Augustine to enhance unit on early church fathers.
2. Read Lady Windermere’s Fan to determine if it should be added to the summer reading list.
3. Organize file drawer.
Here is my “Back to School To-do list from this summer:
2. Try not to mess up too much.
3. Repeat steps and 1 and 2 throughout the school year.
After five years in the classroom, I could just about make it through teaching my diverse subjects blindfolded, with one hand tied behind my back. Sure, I would add a creative assessment here or a more in-depth unit there, but preparation was a matter of tweaking and polishing, not frantically writing quizzes the period before I was supposed to give them (not that I’ve ever done that before…). Okay, so it had gotten a little old and dusty and, well, boring. But there’s a part of us human beings that likes comfort, familiarity, and getting off work in time to watch Jeopardy.
I’m still not sure whether Monday felt more like my first day of teaching or my first day of kindergarten. Sure, I knew the school, the administration, the classroom, the books, and 90% of the kids. But something about this job makes me feel like a ship in thick fog, afraid of getting off-course, sailing into a storm or running aground. I have found my work more nebulous and subjective and the workload more enormous than I ever thought it would be. There’s always something more, something better that I could be doing.
It’s consuming, too. My efforts to destress and forget about work seem all in vain. I find myself on the treadmill staring blankly at the heart rate monitor and wondering if applying Freud’s id, ego, and superego to William Golding’s Lord of Flies is too much of a stretch. I get in the hot tub and start analyzing the symbolism of water in A Separate Peace. I burn toast trying to think of test questions that will cover all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I can no longer extract my work life, even temporarily, from my personal life.
So is there an upside to all this? Actually, there is. I love it. In spite of everything, I find myself happier and more fulfilled in my career than I have felt in years. A student stopped me in the hall this week and said, “Mrs. Wilson, I skimmed through Lord of the Flies again, and I saw all these things I hadn’t seen before we discussed it in class! It was so cool!” Without a doubt, this is where I’m supposed to be. I just have to remind myself of that on the days when I glance longingly at Bluedorn’s Fallacy Detective and covet the easier, more familiar path.