I’m ready. I’m ready to go back. I’m ready to stand by the switch of the carousel and pull the lever, push the button, wind up the gears and let the magic start.
My metaphor for teaching is that I am a carousel operator. For a year, I spin the students around in circles as they learn lessons and practice their skills and hone their abilities. And, at the end of the year, the students get off their horses and look for the newest and more exciting rides. But I stay behind at my happy (and, at times, lonely) little carousel and polish the horses and whisper to them stories of the new students who will join us.
This summer, I haven’t been cleaning up the horses as much as I needed to. Instead, I have been taking the polish and the cloth and working at other parts of different machines, sanding away the rust and emotional sediment that has built up over time.
Tomorrow, I head back to the school but go to a new classroom that is in a totally different section of the building for me. I will be looking out at new horizons, watching the sun rise every morning and praising God for the new opportunity to do something good with my life.
I’m ready. Today, I finished boxing up the books that I brought home and never really looked at. I put in new books that I have kept on my shelves for years but never brought to school because I didn’t know if they would matter. They will now. My teacher bag is stowed away in my car somewhere, likely wedged between boxes of books and my hiking boots which are stashed in the corner of my trunk. Somewhere, I have new pens and pencils, new colors to use for grading or annotating or for drawing pictures on the white board. I have new magazines that I quietly purloined from my gym because no one was reading them but I loved the articles about people who have changed the world, people who have worked towards creating a better good.
I’m nervous about the changes that are going to occur this year. My dream-nightmare landscapes are populated not with students unwilling to learn or students who are hostile and want to cause pain. The horizons in my dreams are continually shifting, literally altering themselves and I am terrified that I will be late or, when I am horribly late to school, I can’t find my classroom or I am low crawling the floors to avoid detection but everything is slow because the air has turned rigid and it’s like slow-running through water.
But change will always happen. As I continue to alter different parts of my life and smooth away all those wonky angles, I luxuriate in the new skin that hides beneath the old. Most of all, I celebrate the callouses that grow.
I love my rosary-bead spine and it’s new latitude measurements.
I wrote earlier this year that I would not be defeated. I haven’t achieved a goal I am fighting to accomplish yet.
But the key word is yet.
I will not be defeated. I will carry on with doing what needs to be done.
As I sit here and look backwards into my mind, I feel like a geologist brushing away at the strata in a rock face, pointing out the layers of development and earthen-evolution.
See that? That was adolescence.
See those lines….college years.
Those purple splotches….the early years of teaching…
That fossil….the lost-girl who was left on the Appalachian Trail.
I am ready. By this time tomorrow, I will have likely finished unboxing books I packed away three to four months ago. I will greet each title with a smile and reflect on the memories of reading the book much like I would nostalgically smile over an old, faded picture of a friend from many decades ago.
By this time tomorrow, I hope that my classroom will at least have a stack of pictures ready to be stuck to the walls, and another stack will be stored back in the big-green-bin because they are pictures of my son who will be joining me at the school but will want to ensure that his dignity has been protected (hence, no embarrassing baby pictures).
By this time tomorrow, my syllabi will have been printed and possibly photocopied. I will be getting ready to start photocopying the poetry that I will be using in the first couple of days. I will have a painter’s-tape-calendar-skeleton on the board in the back of the room, waiting for me to start filling in assignments.
My desks will be arranged.
My textbooks stacked.
I have one more week of “summer vacation,” but I am so ready to leave behind this summer with a fond smile and a wave, ready to try out the things I have learned, ready to start working with a new generation of students.
My former seniors have started going to college, have gone to their dorms and started leaving their marks upon the walls. Today, I closed up a box filled with mementos and letters from those seniors; these artifacts will go to my new room, will be stashed in all the right places so that I will always have “my babies” with me.
I am ready for tomorrow.
And the next day. And the day after that, and the long stream of days that I can see laid out ahead of me like stepping stones.