Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Another school year is over, and I'm grateful.

I read what I've just written, and I know how it comes across. Another teacher who only works 10 months out of 12 is grumbling about her job and gloating that she has two months off.

Nope...not by a long shot.

One of the things I love about my job is its cyclical nature. The year starts with hope and promise. You get a brand new batch of students, all shiny in their new school clothes, scrubbed and pressed, and as eager as they'll be all year. I teach 9th grade, so my students all have that deer-in-the-headlights look. High school is a new experience. Every year without fail, at least one student starts the first day in tears, but most kids are cautiously optimistic.

As the year progresses, the newness wears off. The honeymoon phase ends, and high school isn't intimidating anymore. Some kids hit their stride and cruise along with ease. Others struggle academically or socially or both. Through the fall and into the winter, I approach these students with energy and a can-do spirit. Somewhere in mid-winter though, when the sky is dreary and the air is cold, my spirit begins to sag. The same thing happens to the kids. I think it probably happens to everyone (unless you're a ski instructor maybe). When my energy is the lowest, I have to push the hardest, and that's often when the kids are most likely to push back.

Winter always seems interminable, but spring finally returns. Scheduling for the next school year is a wake-up call for both the cruisers and the strugglers. Students see the finish line ahead, and my strugglers realize they have to kick it in gear if they want to pass for the year. My cruisers are worried about GPA's and admission to advanced or specialized classes. State testing also brings a burst of energy for everyone. After testing, the race to the finish line is on, and the last couple of weeks are more like cat-herding than educating.

The last grades have now been entered into the computer. The faculty and departments have met. Pacing documents and common assessments for the upcoming year have been written. My classroom has been cleaned and closed. I'm done in every sense of the word. Burnout among teachers is high, and 1 out of every 3 new teachers leaves the profession in their first 5 years. I'm not gloating about my two months off. I'm closing my eyes in quiet gratitude. I'm taking a deep, unencumbered breath.

I'm going to write again. Writing a book is a bit like the school year. You start strong, the characters are all shiny and new, as eager as I am to explore their world. There is a mid-winter to every novel as well, and I've been there for the last couple of months in the sagging middle. I'm finally excited about tackling it again because I know I have whole days stretching out in front of me to push through it.

I'm also rewriting the first three chapters of Sapphire Sins. I hit my stride later in that book, and having some distance from my last revision, I realize I did too much telling and not enough showing in the beginning. I've got a new reader all lined up to test it on.

I'm having one of those wildly happy early June moments. Close your eyes and imagine Elton John belting out The Circle of Life. Every ending is a new beginning. I love that about both my vocations.

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