Darkish mornings, the winds strewing leaves and downed branches over the road, I’m driving through the murkiness to the gym. So much easier to stay in bed, take an extra hour and fifteen to sleep, wake and get to work in plenty of time to be organized for the new week. Instead, I push my body to the limits, or at least what I think are its limits at 5.25am on a Monday.
My head is filled with plans for the week—teaching a cross-disciplinary workshop on Elie Wiesel’s Night, conferencing with freshmen about their essay drafts, how to integrate vocabulary and grammar instruction into the classroom in an organic manner, whether to ditch the ratty blue sectional sofa the kids sprawl on—forgetting that it’s also Halloween and everyone is bound to be on a different wavelength this week.
Letters of recommendation need to be written this week, the November 1 deadline looming, as well as the kick-off to FlashNano, a thirty day exercise in writing process and discipline. I need the structure, the daily prompt that’ll spur me into action to get something creative done in my life. Last year it was the genesis of my 365-days of the Bird project, which lingers at around 265 pages, a good forty days behind schedule, and I excuse myself because of moving house, starting a new school year, all the stresses of life that interrupt the creative path.
I heard from my friend, David, today, and might plan a writing group to meet once a month beginning in a few weeks. This is not something I’ve had since the days at LSU, when my weeks were defined by workshop schedules and performance studies’ projects. And yet, there seems little chance of balancing everything just-so and making such great strides. The layers of stress and overwhelm, the social-emotional burden, the collaborative cycle of inquiry, the thousand small demands of the workday, all make the world a place where “one step at a time” has to be the watchword.
And yet, one step at a time won’t get us closer to where we need to be in this devastating and beautiful work we engage in as teachers. Students are stressed out in a way I’ve not seen before, their family lives and struggles bring layers of trauma that interrupt and many times derail the learning process, yet we carry on; we carry on teaching, listening, understanding, advising, cheerleading, modeling, motivating, and creating.