“The story is always better than your ability to write it.” — Robin McKinley
There’s not much in my tank tonight, which means precious few words are dancing in my head. Then again, I never put a word length on the 90 in 90 challenge. Still, it feels wrong to simply post a few random thoughts. Disingenuous because the goal of the project isn’t simply publishing every day. It’s publishing something of merit.
Yet I find myself completely tapped out. Tired. Spent.
My body reaches for the reserves to power through and there isn’t anything there. Like a marathoner who reached the Wall, my body is eating itself.
My classes are stories. They are seventeen week journeys through a topic, strolling through the nooks and crannies of the information, building on conversations, lectures and presentations. I demand much from my students, an attention to detail and a level of participation that they are not accustomed to.
That’s what I have been told by them.
These weeks, 7-9, are the time when the transition happens. The role of passive learner turns into active learner. When I relinquish the reigns of my class, hand them to the students and see what happens.
This transition is fun, but not easy. There is trepidation as they step onto the platform for the first time. Many have a burning desire to succeed, but an overwhelming fear of failing. They do not want to be embarrassed. They do not want to face the humiliation of not being good.
They are, in other words, just like everyone else on the planet.
I make them a promise in Week 1. If they want to learn in my class, they will never be on their own.
In weeks 7 through 9, this seems like a bad promise to make. They demand my time, individual meetings with me to go over their work. To bounce ideas off of me. To make sure they are going down the right path.
I demand much and I have made them a promise. This is how teaching works.
The older I get, the longer I teach, the more I realize this job doesn’t end when they graduate.
Surely some of “my kids” will pass into adulthood, needing me less in their lives. It’s already happened. Students who left and came back, have left again. They may return some day. They may not. It doesn’t make them any less mine.
And every semester, every year, I am honored to teach more of “my kids.”
Not every student will latch on to me, as I latch on to them. It’s why we learn from so many different professors. We’re never sure who will attach themselves to whom.
But it always happens. Because, at the end of the day, many of our students are simply big kids, on the cusp of adulthood. The are lost, scared and excited. And they want someone to stand there with them while they go through it. The don’t want answers, just a little silent companionship.
This transition is fun, but it is not easy. There is trepidation as they step onto the platform for the first time. Many have a burning desire to succeed, but an overwhelming fear of failing. They do not want to be embarrassed. They do not want to face the humiliation of not being good.
The are, in other words, just like everyone else on the planet.
I make them a promise at the end of our time together. If they ever need anyone to stand with them in life, they will never be on their own. They have earned that from me.
There are weeks when my schedule is too packed to squeeze in any other thing, but I have yet to feel burdened because I’ve had the chance to help one of my kids.
I write this, sitting in bed at 945 pm.
Tomorrow is my last full day at home for nearly 2 1/2 weeks. There is much to be finished and finalized. Letters of recommendation to be written. Papers to be graded. Laundry to be finished. Bags to be packed. Maps to be created. Last details to be locked down.
I will, in two days, see my parents for the first time in months. They are on the road, seeing America. Enjoying retirement.
It will be a short visit because I am off to do more work on my book. But at this point, a short visit will do me worlds of good. Because even scary professors need time with their parents.
So my day begins at 530 am and carries until until late in the evening. This is the way of my life at the moment. I keep promising myself that it won’t always be like this, but frankly, I can’t imagine it not being like this.
Because I love my kids. I love my writing. I love my friends.
A former student of mine, while we looked at my Google travel maps that trace my trips across the United States and Europe, said: “I admire that you make time to go see all of your friends.”
At nearly the same moment, one of my friends from San Francisco sent me a note. Her twins, she said, unsolicited had this conversation:
Child 1 “Can brad come to our house again?”
Child 2: “Maybe we could fly to see him!”
I smiled, although my former student probably had no idea why. I have not always been like this, making time for my friends. I have not always had their little children wonder when I was coming back.
I am tired, right now. Exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed. My body is tapped out.
It’s 10 pm now and I’m sitting in my bed, about to sleep.
It’s a very good tired.