I have a brand new pen
& a crisp, blank sheet of paper
but no picture comes to my imagination
My fingers are poised
over the keyboard
but I have no story to tell
Ah, but the sweet West breeze
whispers through the leaves of the trees
and gives me a tease gently on this porch
Across town, the clarion rings
an old hymn from the bell tower
it sings in my mind like a choir
So I let them both bathe me
and settle for living in a poem
instead of writing one
Yep. No sooner did we clean the house bow to stern and get it ship-shape, then the annual onslaught of 4-H projects and Vacation Bible School preparation have filled the whole ground floor with paint and posters, scissors and technicolor duct tape. This year our 9 year old has also decided that she can’t craft without Radio Disney setting the proper mood.
Already our upstairs is cluttered with our 9, 12, & 14 year old girls’ beauty products, boy-band posters, and residual Barbie clothes (from an earlier stage in their childhoods).
I have no refuge. Our unattached one-car garage is a ramshackle structure erected in the 1930’s. I’m not particularly handy or mechanical anyway.
Our basement didn’t start out looking like an episode of Hoarders, but two water heater explosions, and a few other plumbing disasters, rewiring, remodeling and a constant stream of inheritances from still-living ancestors has left it, lets just say uninhabitable except in the most dire tornado warnings.
Our attic is unfinished, unairconditioned, and inaccessible without a ladder, which is a deterrent to me due to my acute acrophobia.
This pushes me to the porch in good weather, except during peak mosquito hours, or to our bedroom.
The problem with our bedroom is that it doesn’t have a reliable wifi signal. The other problem is then when I hole up in there, my wife accuses me of tying to escape and being unsociable and unavailable. That’s what I get for falling in love with someone so intelligent and perceptive.
No matter how much you may be tempted to, you really shouldn’t make faces like Tom Hanks every time your kid messes up at their piano recital. They may not be able to see you in their over their shoulder, in the corner of their eye. But most of the other parents in the audience probably will, including your wife.
On the other hand, it’s just fine to hum or whistle Habanera from Bizet’s opera Carmen at your kids’ little league games. These kids are way too young to remember the Bad News Bears movie, so rather than being offended, they’ll just think you’re some kind of classical music buff. In fact, most other parents are under 40, so they never saw they Walter Matthau film, all they’d know is the Billy Bob Thornton version, which far fewer people saw and I don’t even know that they used the same music in the score.
It isn’t easy to live vicariously though your kids.
Its amazing how stressful piano recitals can be, even after you made your children practice their songs three times an hour for two days before. Not only are other people’s kids mistakes easier on your nerves when they come from a piano than a trumpet or say a clarinet- but in fact, each wrong note, each stumble and delay at every key change and every awkward pause at the end of a line or turn of a page actually ease the stress, guilt and embarrassment you feel about your own kids mistakes. Errors simply say, “Relax, nobody else’s skids are perfect, its not a competition anyway (but if it were, thank God my kid’s not really THAT much worse than anybody else’s kid).”
It must be hard on kids (like mine) who’re atheletic, but have parents who are, shall we say, kinesthetically dystopic. Yes, we’re the parents who wonder why other (former jock) parents always seem to scream so much and want to tell remind them that “it’s just a game,” and “its supposed to be fun,” but of course we don’t because, we were never as assertive as jocks anyway. Besides good sportsmanship, reasonableness and civility by their very natures don’t force themselves on others.
What’s really fun is when your kid reaches the point where they’re the oldest ones on their team (but still too young to advance to the next level).
When this happens, if your kid is good (but not necessarily phenomenally great) they get to be pretty much the greatest one on the team, or at least the best kid on a mediocre team. Which, I should make clear is not a bad team perse, its just that they’re 7 & 8 year olds so they’re still tempted to play in the dirt instead of paying attention because, hey, they’re practically 6 year olds. Therefore, even if their parent was an all-stater in high school, your 9 year old, who is pretty decent, although not really a future olympian, looks like a prodigy by comparison.
This is living (vicariously)! Especially for someone who was always asked to play umpire at recess because while their classmates trusted me to be impartial, they didn’t trust me to hit, catch, throw, or run. Being ump beat getting picked last or not picked at all. It meant they liked me enough to not want to hurt my feelings even though they also didn’t want to have to put up with my ineptitude.
So what that I really didn’t learn to catch till I was in my twenties when my brothers-in-law had enough patience and pity to teach me how? I can still tell my kids that I went to high school with World Series MVP Curt Schilling! OF course, he was a couple years ahead of me and we went to a school with like 2,600 kids, so I never actually met the guy… but they’re uncle sat behind him in Algebra, I guess. That’s what living vicariously is all about, Charlie Brown!
Well that’s over. Three hours of chaos and bedlam. Students and athletes need you to sign their check-out sheets, but not much else. I handed back the finals and tried to visit a little bit about what kids’ summer plans were. Knuckleheads tried to get away with as much mischief as they could, assuming they wouldn’t get in trouble since its the last day. Every girl made sure they got a “selfie” with each and every “BFF.” Contents of lockers and backpacks overflowed the trash barrels. Music played and laughter roared. My aid lined up every girl in the Eighth Grade for a group picture. In short, it was a little like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
In a way, it is New Year’s Eve. This is the last day of the school year, after all- its just that New Year’s Day (the first day of the new school year) is 12 weeks away, instead of a minute after Midnight.
Like the police and sanitation crews in NYC, we teachers, administrators, and custodians and maintenance crews are left to clean up the confetti while students go on to the next party and sleep in past Noon.
Every New Year’s we make resolutions and set goals. But often, if only because we’re exhausted from the stress of the holidays, its hard to not break those resolutions the very first week of January.
As I wrote about last week, I don’t know about other teachers, but I’m excited about planning for next school year. Unfortunately, there’s cleaning and year-end paperwork to do. I also have to put together the district newsletter and finish up the yearbook.
If teachers are honest with ourselves, I think there may be more reasons for today to feel like the post-holiday let-down instead of some joyous day of liberation. Teachers teach. Who and what we are is dependent on our students. So when we’re unneeded, and essentially unemployed for the next 10-12 weeks, well, we feel a little adrift, our moorings untied.
Are there any other teachers out there who feel like this? Maybe you’re too busy with your own families (softball, 4-H, camps, VBS, vacation, yardwork, etc. etc.)
Does anyone else out there want to work on revising their curriculum for next year instead of tying up perennial paper tigers?
What do you do that keeps you learning and developing as an educator? Master’s classes? License renewal classes? Teach summer school? Catch up on your reading?
Needless to say, here I am blogging (procrastinating) instead of tackling those tigers. How do you stay focused this last week of teacher-meetings, etc.?