T.S. Eliot was wrong — October is the cruelest month, not April — which he should have known because at one point he was a schoolteacher. And not too be too critical of a Nobel Prize winning poet, but I think if he would have really considered the plight of educators in the month of October, The Waste Land might have gone in a slightly different direction.
As almost all teachers know, October is the part of the marathon race that is every school year whereby the end is so far out of sight it’s not even worth looking out on the horizon for it. Yet, the bloom is completely off the rose in terms of the freshness of a new year having started so that any sense of a “honeymoon with the new kids” is long since blam-o! And any re-charging or the batteries that was done over the summer has long since seen its reserves tapped, as well.
There’s no holidays. There are no breaks. The days get shorter and cooler and wetter. (I mean I love the Fall, don’t get me wrong, but even the weather conspires against us a wee little bit.)
October is a long stretch of road.
On one hand though, October is a great month for me though because I get a heck of a lot of uniterrupted teaching time in. It’s where the path of the year gets deeply plowed. On the other hand, teachers like me endure small little things like incapacitating throat infections which would sideline most mere mortals and yet, since I barely have enough time to accomplish all the things I plan to tackle even when I’m healthy, I certainly do not feel I have the time to call in sick — and so, inevitably during the month of October, I trudge on in, up before the sun, looking like a teacher that should really be spending their day in bed with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and I suck it up and work through the themes of Frost, figurative language of Maya Angelou or the mood of Poe knowing that the weekend is only another 5 days and 188 essays away.
And this week, for the extra added bonus, we have Halloween in the air. Now, personally, I simply LOVE Halloween. One of the most fun times of the year for me. However, just the idea of it being in the air makes the kids both restless and mischievous. And for the students on campus who are not the most “academically oriented kids in the first place” Halloween week is almost a green light for them to cause trouble.
Ask anyone on campus this week and what you’ll find is people who are feeling stretched, tired, and over-worked. Now personally, I am a fan of these things because education is like muscle building and sometimes you have to do the sweaty, hard, strenuous work that stretches all the sinews in order to make productive gains. On the other hand, it’s easy to advocate for this type of workout but hard to actually get in the gym and be the weightlifter who has to pull it off.
October challenges me as a teacher. It makes me reach down, it makes me work hard and it forces me to keep my eyes on the prize and not become distraught over the insane amount of work which needs to be done in an almost un-doable amount of time under quite unreasonable circumstances.
Yet, like the Maya Angelou I am teaching this week, Still I Rise.