Thursday, February 5, 2015

oh, the ups and downs

When it’s late at night and branches are banging against the windows, 
you might think that love is just a matter 
of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else, 
but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Adage, by Billy Collins

 I stormed into the faculty work room, and made a bee-line for my desk.
Furiously, I grabbed the verboten jar of Nutella surreptitiously tucked away at the back of the bottom drawer of my desk, behind the ACT registration tickets and annual action plans.
I'm done. I'm done. I announced finally.
It had been a day of dialogues such as:
"Ms. Roooodeeennn, can't you just get rid of Z consequenceee????"
"X, if you don't do Y, you won't receive Z consequence. So, X, don't do Y."
And the only response: being given a blank stare.

It had been a day of monologues like:
"Class, I gave you five minutes to do the assignment, and you used those five minutes to laugh with your neighbor. We are moving on, and I'm sorry if you didn't have time to finish the assignment and reap the points that will be gathered from said assignment."
"What did I ask you to do? And what were you doing? Was that what I asked you to do? How can you change that?"
"Did you just throw the thing at A? Okay, then what exactly were you doing?"
"Dear Class, you are wasting this time talking to one another, so I have added another minute onto our class. And if you want to keep talking, I can keep adding minutes."

Those days are not fun. It is not fun to be surrounded by twenty-odd young humans, in the throes of all sorts of angsts and joys and human dramas, who are acting like a bunch of insufferable snots. It is even worse when they are children that you actually care about a lot, who you want to see act like perfect angels, but instead are acting like insufferable snots.  You know they are smarter than the idiotic choices they are making: "Dear student in the back row: stop licking the computer." And you wonder what is wrong with you that they are making such idiotic choices under your watch. For, surely, if I was a divine creature, possessed of all wisdom and teaching excellence, with creative lesson plans and PowerPoints Mark Zuckerberg would salivate over, then they would never misbehave. Perhaps it is my fault, since I am not perfect, that they are not also being the most perfect they can be.

I also candidly, unabashedly disagree with the system of discipline that exists at the school; and most days I can swallow my displeasure with it, grit my teeth, and carry on; but there are some days—like today—that the system's inability to effect change in these students drives me absolutely to the edge of all reason; and I stomp into the workroom, grab the nearest spoon, and shovel Nutella into my mouth, while ranting to whomever will listen.

So, I stormed up to the Chapel, like Winter Storm Juno, with Nutella stains on her lips. And there, I was greeted by a parent.
I was expecting to be all alone. No one cares to visit the computer teacher. On the totem pole of importance, she is certainly the bottom rung.
This woman looked so familiar, because I had seen her face so many times before in her son's, which is her face, only decked out in faux-nerdy hipster glasses. And I felt like I knew her quite well already, as she came and sat on the soft wood chapel chairs with me.
She frittered so elegantly, and fluttered so beautifully, with such soft and tender love and concern over the sheet of paper that marked her child's progress through the year.
As I spoke to her, I started, against my will, to feel tears spring to my eyes. Her eyes shone with absolute love for her son. I felt my heart melt into a large pool of butter. Through his mother's eyes, I could see her son as something new: this glorious little human being, full of so much potential, and all the annoying classroom traits were but as naught. C, I told her, will do great things. Which perhaps is just the sort of comforting drivel you tell a parent, but, in that moment, I really believed it. Her son had worked so hard to get here; and if he kept working hard, I didn't see how he could go anywhere but somewhere good and glorious and great.
The ability of each human to do such great things struck me so deeply then, it cut my heart. I thought of how wonderful it was that each student at the school was here; how much harder they worked than most of their peers; what a higher standard they were held to. I wanted each of them to know just how capable they were of achieving such great heights. I wanted them to know that I would do pretty much anything to get them there. And I wanted them to know I didn't like them very much for throwing paper around the classroom, but I didn't love them any less for it. In fact, I wondered if there was anything that could make my love for them diminish. Because when you love people not for what they can do for you, but for what you can do for them, you find your love just grows more plentiful the more you give it away.

Let this, first, be a lesson to all of us to never eat too much Nutella, for it creates a chemical imbalance in our bodies, and absolutely destroys all possibilities of emotional equanimity, and makes us quite sentimental at the end of very long days spent dwelling among high school students.

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