As a Freshman Composition instructor, (by day) I sometimes complain about the amount of work I inevitably bring home on the weekends. By mid-April, I’m usually exhausted every Friday and ready for summer break. Still, the work continues to inspire me, mostly because my students grow so much in fifteen weeks, and also because their writing is so honest. And I was pleased by the piece I wrote in response to this prompt: waiting for summer.
I recently found a journal I kept my first year of teaching college composition, and what I wrote surprised me. Because after twelve years of weekly essay reading, meetings with students, and less than satisfying textbooks, I find that by Spring Break, I’m anxiously awaiting summer.
I could complain about the low salary and minimal benefits, the less than sympathetic administration, the hierarchy between full-time (them) and part-time (us) faculty, but this most likely isn’t news to you. And you’ll probably tire of hearing it, just as I get tired of the hours of grading, the students who are excessively late for class, or whisper when others are speaking (and I have to become that kind of teacher and glare, or worse, ask, “Do you have something to share with the class?”). I get tired of the late nights at my kitchen table with the ever-present stack of papers to read, to shuffle, to organize.
What might come as a surprise to you, however, and certainly came as a surprise to me while reading those twelve-year-old journal entries, is that I haven’t really changed at all. It seems I wasn’t so green and naive back then as I thought I was; I was earnest. And dull as it sounds, I still am.
I still worry about the students who are failing, or consistently absent; I still wonder if anyone has spoken to him about acne treatment, or her about eating disorders. And I am still as honored and as careful with my response when a student trusts me enough to come out of the closet; I know I might be the first person he or she has ever told.
It turns out I’m not jaded, or bitter, or angry (at least, not for more than a few minutes each semester). Am I tired, overwhelmed, eager to revise my own work in those precious months I know are coming without classes? Yes, I am. But it turns out, I’m still present in the same ways I was when I was a brand new teacher. And I’m thankful for that. And proud.