Take stock of what is important. Be kind and be grateful NOW. It’s easy to hate, harder to love. Dismiss what insults your soul (Whitman). Words have power, choose wisely and compassionately… These are some of the quips that I would share with my students at some point during the semester, depending upon the course and if they were even in a place to hear the sound of my voice anymore on a particular day.
I’ve recently taken a break from teaching to focus on other things in my life that need attention. But I miss the students and the excitement of a new semester. I miss getting to know each unique student and hearing their story. I miss the looks on their faces when I tell inappropriate jokes to see who is awake, or the pensive looks during more serious discussions, or the expressions of those when something ‘clicks’… I have found that when teaching I am a natural lunatic in front of the classroom. It’s full on ME-no veil or alter-ego, just pure honesty and an ardent desire to help young people understand how capable they are and how important they are in this world. In an odd way, I miss the heartache I feel for so many of them who suffer through this part of their life as so many of us have. I know they will be OK, but no words will convince them of that. I loved listening to them.
I am forever grateful for the trust those students have put in me and I am even grateful for those who worked against me every class, every semester, because there is always at least one that exists to keep me in check. I never lost my drive to teach them how literature is more than just a reading assignment to get through. I always had passion.
Good luck and good mojo have blessed my life in and out of the classroom. Interactions with many of my students have brought me much happiness and sense of purpose. My personal faith and belief system includes the idea that each person whose path I cross or who crosses my path is significant; that particular soul has crossed with mine to teach me something about myself, the world, what it means to be good or to remind me to be grateful. The students I have taught over the past five years have reinforced this for me time and time again.
So when I felt like I wasn’t putting everything I had into teaching, and other areas of life were calling, I stepped back. I don’t regret this. My teaching experiences now serve as a pool of strength I can dip into when needed.
2012 thus far has been extraordinarily intense for my family. There hasn’t been much in the way of moderation. The highs and lows are atmospheric or subterranean. Several life changing events, several things to mourn, even more patience to be developed… my husband and I recognize this and remind each other of all of the good things we have so we don’t get sucked in to a ‘poor me’ vortex and forget to be grateful. It’s so important to be mindful of all of the good that we have in life. We raise our glasses every night at dinner and toast a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ to each other, sometimes holding our gaze just a little bit longer as if to assure each other, we can do this, just a little bit longer, hang on. We face risks and decisions now that we have not encountered before. The kind that need to be agreed upon as a partnership; we are in or we are out. No hedging or loitering. Lately, I am (WE are) feeling strained, limited, hollow and tapped.
I dragged my strained, limited, hollow and tapped self to the mailboxes on the first floor where I bumped into my neighbor for a chat. He is a professor down the road at UC Berkeley. He was telling me how the first few weeks of the new semester were going. As he was talking, I felt an unreasonably large grin come across my face and I drank in his every word. (Words are powerful…) I had a flash of the last semester I taught: happy faces, students hanging around at the end of the last class, inadvertently forming a circle around me telling me Good luck in California! We will miss you! Thank you so much for everything you did for us! I felt like I was going to tear up at that moment in the chat with my neighbor. Little did he know how he led me to that pool of strength I needed, reminding me that each person crosses our path at a particular moment for a purpose.