I have just finished planning for the fourth week of my tenure in 7th grade. I had a series of very long, difficult days in the past two weeks. Conferences with parents and students who are at risk of not being able to go on to 8th grade. Learning a little bit more about how to reprimand students before sending them to the office. New students coming in, other students leaving (short-timer syndrome was rampant this week, NOT easy to deal with!). I am trying to leave the school no later than 4:30 or 5, but a couple of nights I was past 8 pm.
It’s the sort of thing new teachers do, planning. Working longer hours to refine and recraft. Thinking about what would work better, trying to find resources to make the learning stick quicker and last longer. Considering the best methods to reach various students. Trying something, and then trying something else. I am enjoying most of it, and realizing that I need to set limits. So on Friday, I left as soon as I had the classroom in order, all the materials that needed grading, filing and sorting in my bags to go home.
Yesterday, I planned. The upcoming chapter in math is going to be very difficult and confusing, so I looked for (and found) some short videos online that might help with basic concepts, pared down the chapters into single-sentence and single-concept powerpoint slides…. Broke the first lesson of the chapter into three parts that are fundamental to understanding the three lessons that will follow. Pre-test, classwork, homework all planned. Moving on… I spent well over 12 hours yesterday, and easily 8 today (mostly grading papers). But if it makes the learning better and the days feel shorter, then it will be worth it. I don’t know how much longer I will be at this school, but for the moment the students are making very real progress. It feels good.
It is February! We have had a disappointing winter — only one day where there was enough snow to delay school, and that was now almost two months ago. It is warm, and dry. Warmer and dryer than it should be this time of year. More like late spring than literally the middle of winter. Buds on some trees and shrubs, a few figs continue to cling to the trees, and the bulbs are beginning to send up shoots: hyacinth and daffodil leaves already stick up 4 to 6 inches from the soil, pushing aside leaves and debris.
What does it mean for the land when the climate begins to shift? We have unpredictable weather. The baby slugs in the garden are already more and bigger than even in June in a normal year. It will be difficult for germinating plants to outgrow the hungry mollusks.
The trees and shrubs that are sending out buds are susceptible to late freezes. We had some very cold weather last month, and dry cold… there is no insulation against the cold if sap is running and snow doesn’t fall.
The mountains that should capture snow and release it later in the year for salmon and crops are not as well covered as they should be, though they glimmer in the distance when the sunlight and moonlight shine. Later in the year, the clear skies and mountains that still have green will seem less beautiful…
The animals that might otherwise rest are out and about, eating and foraging. I don’t know whether they will out-eat the new growth, but I fear they might.
We’ll see. Meantime, here are a few images from the garden today. In order:
Elderberry buds on the limbs we pruned out (the core of the main trunk was rotted through), then the lovely witchhazel blooms, and the soft, furry spurs of new medlar branches. Mountain huckleberry and my grandmother-in-laws japonica quince share scarlet new growth, and the slowly graying chestnut leaves on the ground are speckled like wild eggs.
It is lovely to walk out when there is light and see that the garden waits for our return. I nurture the land in small ways in the winter, and wait for the dry, warmer weather when I can work the soil again.
I nurture my students as best I can each day, and return every night to a wonderful husband, sons and dog who fill my time at home with joy.
It’s not easy, but it’s good. Life should be good like this. I am so lucky that it is.