Putting the Lid on the Box

The school year is rapidly coming to an end.  I know I’ve written about this multiple times…sorry for the redundancy.  But today was the AP Literature exam day; today my students who elected to take the exam went in and worked their way through the multiple choice exam and three essays.

Today was my last round of AP Lit exams because I have elected not to teach this class anymore.

I might teach the class again.  But, at this point, not next year.  With my new position, I will have one open spot and I requested to have a dual enrollment class.  I needed to change.  I needed to walk away from something for which I have fought and worked so hard to earn and then to regain when enough sections re-opened.

Twelve years ago, the current AP teacher retired; upon hearing that she was choosing to leave, I realized that I wanted to take a chance and step into her position.  I spent a school year reading, combing through her syllabus, doing everything I could to prove to the administration that I was capable of taking on the job.  When I was given the AP Lit sections, I swear I felt like I had “touched the face of God.”

AP Lit was a world of dreams that were steadily fabricated into reality.  Some of my best lesson ideas were inspired by my AP Lit kids.  This is the room of Elliot who asked me if he could do a “masque” or a musical analysis of Jocasta. And I said, “Sure.  Go for it.”

This was the class in which Elliot and his classmates read and analyzed Dan’s Julia poetry and were given the honor of meeting a real poet who lived, quietly, within their midst.

This was the class in which I taught stichomythia sword fighting, invented “The Clap,” taught students how to construct a box so they could literally show how they thought outside of it.

This was the class when the snow feel we ran in circles around the trailer, shrieking with laughter.

This was the class of legendary students who changed my life.

AP Lit taught me how to truly analyze literature, how to look at things from so many angles and perspectives.  AP Lit helped me see that I had more than two brain cells to rub together and that my thoughts, analysis, and interpretations had merit and value.  AP Lit transformed my reading, the books that I was reading, and how I related to those books.  AP Lit helped pave the path that has led me to my new position.

But as the years have progressed, I have wearied.  At times, I felt much like Bilbo when he tells Frodo that he feels “…thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”  The joy, the excitement, the incredible thrill of walking into the classroom slowly feel from my shoulders, almost like a snake that had shed its skin but didn’t have a way to tear off the last little bit and leave it behind.

I love AP Lit.  I love what I get to do with that class.  But the drive became overtaken by numbers ranging in scales from 1 to 5 or 1 to 9.  The politics of success over-shadowed the joy of helping students, regardless of strength, intellect, or ability to find value and worth within themselves.

But I kept on plodding along because I knew that the joy and love of teaching that class still lived somewhere within me, a tidy nucleus of golden joy that just needed to be incubated a little longer and it would burst forth once more.

It’s still there.  I can still feel that incredible passion within me.  But I’m worn.  I’m tired. I feel like Bilbo.

Bilbo knew when it was time to go.  He knew when he needed to find his map to the lonely mountain and take a long walk to re-discover the life he had loved for so long but had let stagnate in his little hobbit hole.  He struggled with releasing his Ring, with giving up on the legacy that he treasured but didn’t understand any longer.  But, in the end, Gandalf gave him a well needed shove and the Fellowship of the Nine took on the quest.

Today, I cleaned off my desk in the English office; with moving to my new position, I will leave my desk in the corner and will move to a different part of the building and will find a new corner.  Today, as I cleaned off my desk, I found my clean copies of released AP exam that are supposed to be in a notebook I have constructed of all the released AP exams.

Briefly, I held them, considered throwing them away.  I’m done.  I won’t need them anymore.

But I also know that someday, I might be called back into the world of AP, will be thrilled when that path beckons me forward.  At this point, though, the siren call of AP is so muted, I can’t even pretend to hear it.

I didn’t throw out the papers.  I stacked them on my desk and decided that I would take them to my old classroom, find the notebooks, and put the exams in the sections where they belong.  Then I will pick up the notebooks, put them in a box, and put the lid on the box.

I’ll label the box, put my name and new classroom number on it.  I’ll make sure those notebooks and any corresponding materials go to my new hobbit hole.  But, for now, the memories of old quests and rainbow-dreams will stay in the boxes.  It’s time for a new adventure.

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