Mary Oliver

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Another Week

Last week was a struggle, due to a number of reasons. On the first day back from break, I had to leave after only teaching one block, in order to accompany my parents to a doctor appointment. My dad has been in pain from his sciatica nerve for the past several months and after exhausting all the other avenues of treatment, he saw a surgeon on Monday. I wanted to go because at 78, it's hard for him to keep up with a rapid explanation of options and information, and my mother, who is otherwise quite sharp, has a hearing loss that limits her ability to hear everything that is said. So I went to take notes and make sure my concerns were addressed. We had heard that this particular surgeon, while very good, could be quite brusque, but I did not find that to be true. He took plenty of time with the three of us and I couldn't have been more pleased. My dad will have surgery this Friday, and is expected to stay in the hospital for 3-4 nights. I will be there, along with my sister and mother, for the day, and possibly the day she takes him home, which will mean more substitutes for my students.

This brings me to the reason my week was so challenging. I started the novel, Things Fall Apart, with my Honors 10 class on Monday, expecting them to rise to the challenge. They have been an enjoyable and cooperative group up until this point, and we seemed to have a good rapport. When I came back on Tuesday, things did indeed fall apart in class. They were frustrated with the reading, and unfortunately, that was also the day I returned their poorly written research papers. Whew. We barely made it through the block. It shook me up more than it should have because I'm frequently too sensitive to student remarks. You'd think after 18 years in the classroom I'd know better, but that's not how I'm built. I am a very reflective teacher by nature, and sometimes this leads me to doubt my instructional decisions, which is what I found myself doing, even more so since I hadn't taught this novel before. In addition, my teaching style is structured upon building relationships within my classroom and with the population I teach, this is normally a very successful strategy. Except it isn't so much of a strategy for me as it is simply the way I am, which is why I love teaching in the district I'm in. I've chosen to teach in the so-called underprivileged schools for the entirety of my career, and trust me, I have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I find it to be as rewarding as it is challenging, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Except on the days it sucks. And that day definitely sucked.

The following day I went in there and told the class that we were a community built on trust and that I was disappointed with their passive-aggressive comments; that I had never asked them to do anything they couldn't do and that I expected more from them. From there, I told them that I had wanted them to read about the Ibo culture without any background from me so that they could better understand how strange it seemed to the British missionaries when they arrived. And I followed that up with a little historical background on the nature of colonization and how it wreaked havoc on the existing cultures and before I knew it, we were all back on track again. The rest of the week went very well, at least until the weekend, the majority of which was spent in bed, exhausted from allergies and a mild infection which required an antibiotic.

But the best part of the week was the beautiful weather and the spring flowers in our yard.



The cats, looking like the best of friends, sharing some cat grass. Trust me, looks are deceiving.

Apparently they call a truce during meal times.

I even made two quiches, using the asparagus from our garden. So delicious. I gave one to my parents, as my mom has been complaining that although I tell her how much asparagus we eat, I never share any with them. Done and done.

Only two more work days for me this week, as I'll be spending Friday at the hospital while my dad undergoes surgery. Thank goodness for knitting, as I'm sure the waiting would be much harder without it. Please send good thoughts my way this Friday. Thanks!




  1. I have weeks like that. I think I am a good therapist, not the best but good and solid, then I have a patient whom I have suggested move to a clinic model who actually does that, but does it so it was a bit underhanded and made me feel inadequate, really I don't know why because they are following my suggestion but in of a sticky way. Do I think of all the other kids I helped this past week? No, I think of those parents and how they were not honest and it upsets me. This is why you are a good teacher my friend, because you care and you take the time to plan and reflect when things don't go well. I suppose the kids are getting a bit of end of the year itis, I know my son is. Best of luck to your Dad.

    1. Thank you so much, Mere! I appeciate your comments and hope by reading of my struggles you realize that we are all going through similar issues. I know it helps me to know we aren't alone!

  2. Glad your dad is getting some relief soon, and I hope his recovery is swift and uneventful. He and your mom will be so glad to have you and your sister's continued help.

    It sounds like you handled things beautifully with the difficulties at school. Things can go so awry and we have no way of knowing what will precipitate it. Almost always, it is personal frustration for students, and you are the closest target. I can hear those passive-aggressive comments now, having heard them so many times after handing back papers in my career! It was all I could do not to turn around, fix each kid with a Death Stare, and fire back with a salvo of Acid Vocabulary the likes of which they'd never be able to withstand. But, alas, not appropriate, professional, or even humane.

    Enjoy Spring and count down the days!

    1. You know exactly how it went! You should have heard the number of F-bombs I dropped in the staff room! It was clear to everyone in there that I was having a rough day, but the stress relief of letting it fly was quite helpful. I'm really proud of how well they pulled it together afterwards and wonder of wonders, I'd say they ended up enjoying the book after all! 33 more days, but who's counting, hahaha!