On Going Back

The kids come back on Tuesday.

It’s been a long summer, and I am ready for it to end.

The beginning of the year is full of wound up, latent potential. You and the kids are well rested. You come in to the year feeling fresh, with lots of great ideas you concocted over the summer when you finally had enough time to relax and reflect. Your classroom is clean, the floor waxed. There is not as of yet any work hanging over your head, there are no papers to grade, no conflicts to mediate. You haven’t yet taught a series of less-than-perfect lessons, or felt bogged down by the messiness of planning a unit that just won’t seem to come together. You don’t yet feel like you are drowning in a sea of email and paper scraps and student requests and little things to remember. You say to yourself, “This year will be even better than the last, because it can be. I have reflected on my practice and learned from what worked and didn’t work last year.” You indulge and relish the clean feeling of the beginning before the messy work of real teaching begins again.

Brush Messy Colours Color Colors Craft Motley

Teaching is kind of like spending 180 days working on a painting by orchestrating the simultaneous assistance of 120 or so small paint brushes, each manned by independent-minded artist. When a mistake is made, you can’t erase the paint. If you try to, you will just smear it everywhere. You can paint over the mistake, but that looks sloppy. Better to just acknowledge it and move on to the next part of the artwork. Most of the time the painting is a ridiculous, interesting, colorful mess. But 120 paint brushes and 180 days means there are bound to be mistakes, there are bound to be rebellions of color here and there, parts that don’t fit together, conflicts that result in brazen brush strokes, over-thick layers in some spots, too-thin patches and unsightly blotches in others.

But eventually it comes together. At the end of your time painting, you’ve got a wild masterpiece that everybody has contributed to, and that nobody really likes all the parts of, but that we collectively own whether we like it or not. It’s not perfect but it’s as good as it’s going to get, and it has to be good enough, because there will never be another one just like it or to take its place.

So I am excited to go back. I cannot wait to get back to working with kids and colleagues and painting the mess that will be English class until June 2018.