Category Archives: weariness
Advent: Day 3
Psalm 6:6, Revised Standard Version
Teaching may look easy to the uninitiated, but it is really hard work, and I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t know weariness.
I read a book several years ago about some newly-minted teachers in New York City, who figured they had finally become “real teachers” when they looked in the mirror and saw that they had “raccoon eyes.” They were so weary from lack of sleep—staying late after school to tutor students who needed extra help, grading papers at home at night, and planning lessons on the weekends—that they had dark circles under their eyes.
If you’re a teacher, weariness goes with the territory. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done.
One night not long ago I was so tired that I couldn’t even read the latest John Lescroart thriller to unwind. I wasn’t moaning or flooding my bed with tears or drenching my couch with weeping as the psalmist seems to have done, but weariness was weighing me down, and I finally surrendered to it and crawled into bed at 7:30 p.m. I fell asleep immediately. When I woke up the next morning, I felt like a new person.
Advent is the spiritual antidote to the frenzied holiday shopping season. It’s also God’s invitation to shed our weariness and become reinvigorated. During Advent, God whispers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28). By coming to God and accepting the divine offer of rest, we are made anew.
keepers of the earth and sky—
lullaby me home.
Text and photo © 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher
Photo: Northern Arizona
More Sensational Haiku Wednesday with the theme “Home” here
More Sensational Haiku Wednesday with the theme “Weary” here
More Postcards from Paradise at Recuerda Mi Corazon here
More Haiku Heights with the theme “Lullaby” here
More Haiku My Heart at Recuerda Mi Corazon here
More Monday Poetry Train Revisited #134 here
More Straight Out of the Camera shots here
More Shadow Shot Sunday photos here
1st Friday in Advent
Psalm 16:6, RSV
TGIF—Thank God It’s Friday. Workers all over the world—especially teachers, it seems—like to chant that mantra on the last day of the workweek.
Teaching is hard work, and the pay hardly compensates for the demands of the profession. Yet, instead of saying TGIF, I say that I’m thankful that I have a job at all during these latter days of the Great Recession. For that reason, if for no other, the lines have indeed fallen for me in pleasant places.
No, not everything about the life of a classroom teacher is pleasant. I sometimes feel as though I am being carried away by a tsunami of paperwork. In fact, paperwork annoys me so much that it’s always last on my list of things to do—which, of course, makes the tsunami worse! l weary of having to discipline the same kids over and over again. And I find most staff meetings to be an utter waste of time. (My ideal school would have staff meetings no more than four times a year, certainly not every Friday.)
Still, the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. What other job would allow me to work with children, helping to sharpen their minds and shape their character? What other job would challenge me to learn something new every day? What other job has built-in breaks throughout the year? I’m so grateful that I can travel at Christmas and spring break and in the summer to reconnect with friends and family and see new places. (I’m looking forward to being in Guadalajara for Christmas.)
Yes, like many other teachers on this Friday evening, I’m tired. It has been another difficult week. But despite my weariness, I know that teaching is a privilege and a high calling, and if I were to turn my back on it, I would be rejecting my “goodly heritage.”
During the remainder of this Advent season, and beyond, I plan to accentuate the positive, and downplay the negative, aspects of the work I do. Instead of muttering, “TGIF,” when the end of the workweek rolls around, I’m going to be saying, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”
Because they have.
It’s Time to Unwind
This day has been too exciting,
With students shoving and fighting;
It’s time to unwind
And pamper my mind—
Boredom sounds, oh, so inviting!
© 2010 by Magical Mystical Teacher
Second Friday in Advent: Patience?
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.’”
Patient endurance? I’m afraid my patience with my sixth-graders ended long before the final bell rang today. At the beginning of sixth period I told them that we had a lot of work to do and that we would all have to keep on task to get it done.
“There are two very important things we need to do before 3:30,” I said. “We need to finish making Christmas cards for our pen pals and we need to finish decorating the board.” My students cheered. Then they grabbed scissors, colored construction paper, glue and crayons and went to work.
For about fifteen minutes, it seemed as though things might actually go according to my plan. Everywhere I looked, students were cutting, coloring and decorating.
Then things started to deteriorate. B-Boy got up from his desk to wander aimlessly around the room. Two boys got into a “sword fight” with scissors. A threesome huddled around the one student computer that’s hooked to a printer. They said they were just taking a quick look for Christmas tree art to print, but the “quick look” quickly became forty minutes—at which point I shut down the computer. M-Boy decided that using the stapler was so much fun he started tacking staples all over the bulletin board as fast as he could. J-Boy began verbally harassing some of the girls and wouldn’t stop.
Finally, I’d had enough. I ordered the students to clean up immediately and return to their desks. “Do not get out of your seats until after the bell rings,” I said. (They never did finish the holiday cards to their pen pals.) I couldn’t wait to escort them out of the building to the waiting buses. As soon as I turned off the lights in my classroom, I left the school, muttering to myself, “I hate this time of year.”
I don’t really hate the days leading up to Christmas, of course, but all of the stresses of the week finally caught up with me and words of discouragement flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. I’m human. I get tired. I complain.
Fortunately, there’s One who knows me better than I know myself. He also knows the better self that sometimes gets buried deep within me. “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance,” he says. “I know the real you, and that this was ‘just one of those days.’ If you will rest in My love over the weekend, you’ll be refreshed, restored and ready to return to your classroom Monday morning.”
What a gracious offer! And it comes to me not only during the days of Advent, but every day of the year.
First Friday in Advent: Giving
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
It’s Friday, and like many teachers, I’m tired. I’ve had too many papers to grade this week, too many meetings to attend and too many breakdowns in classroom decorum.
Yet despite my weariness, I take pleasure in thinking back on some pleasant incidents, involving a handful of students who are eager to learn.
T-Boy is one of my eager learners. He perked up immediately during today’s spelling pretest when he heard me say the word thirteen.
“I’m going to be thirteen tomorrow,” he announced. Then he added, “How do you spell thirteen?”
“This is a test,” I reminded him. “That’s for you to figure out.”
“But how do you spell it?” he said, becoming more insistent.
“If you’re going to be thirteen, then you need to learn how to spell the word.”
T-Boy thought for a moment and then gave me a mischievous grin. “I’ll just stay twelve,” he said.
Exchanges like this one with T-Boy compel me to agree with the psalmist: “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”
I haven’t always been a teacher. I’ve held several other jobs. But now that I’ve worked with middle school students for a number of years, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve been called to teach—and I’ve answered that call. Nothing can be more pleasant than doing what one knows in one’s bones is the right thing to do—and teaching feels right for me.
Making the journey through Advent to Christmas also feels right. Despite what many retailers would have us believe, Christmas doesn’t start the moment Halloween ends. There’s a gap of nearly eight weeks from trick-or-treating to gift-giving. Making the Advent journey can change us from getters into givers.
During this Advent season, as I continue to teach my students, and laugh with them, even when I am weary, I am learning afresh that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
Tired Teacher’s Threnody
As holiday time comes around,
I’m keeping my ear to the ground,
Still hoping my muse
Will whisper some news
Of where inspiration is found.
© 2009 by Magical Mystical Teacher
As I was locking my classroom door, the head sixth-grade teacher called me aside. “I need to talk to you,” she said. “I have one of your special ed students for after-school tutoring, but I’ve been told that someone from your department needs to tutor her.”
My heart sank. Add another two hours to my school day?
I looked down the hall. There was M-Girl, leaning against the wall, slowly shuffling toward the tutoring room. With her slumped shoulders and downcast eyes, she might have been a condemned prisoner taking her last walk.
M-Girl and I get along well. She was one of my students last year. She’s not a problem behaviorally, and she always calls out my name enthusiastically when she sees me in the hall.
M-Girl is now in eighth grade. She has limited cognitive ability and, in my opinion, tutoring will not significantly improve her linguistic and mathematical skills. But her parents want her to participate in the tutoring program, so reluctantly M-Girl stays after school four days a week.
I understand her reluctance. By the time the closing bells rings, the last thing I want to do is stay in my classroom until 5:30 p.m. Maybe I’m being selfish, but I’m inclined to say no.
However, I did tell the head teacher that I’d think about it and talk it over with the other special ed teacher. What I’m hoping, of course, is that my colleague will jump at the chance to earn an extra $200 per week.
But if she doesn’t?