By Shauna Rynn Waters
I came back from the Folger Summer Academy full of fire and ideas. It was like a tent revival for English teachers, I guess, or an encounter with what Prometheus stole from the Olympian hearth. I felt real enthusiasm for getting back in the classroom and for trying some new approaches to teaching works I’ve loved for a long time.
Then the first day of PD hit me.
It wasn’t bad, I suppose. In fact, we had a really good keynote speaker this year, someone who was sensible, moving, and meaningful. He was genuinely inspirational. It also seemed like everyone from the mayor on down the line was trying very hard to keep the meeting stripped down to those essential bits we simply must have every year. As I looked at checklists, additional duties, new policies, and detailed descriptions I have to pay attention to this year, though, I felt a definite snag in the flight of my joy for the new year.
BUT . . . when I got home, finally got settled in my comfortable chair, took in an episode of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice mini-series on Amazon Prime streaming, and my sweet cat Dillon was curled around my neck on the back of my chair, my thoughts cleared and I developed a new resolution. This year IS going to be a good one. All the little bits of busywork that surround education in the modern age aren’t going to destroy the desire I replenished this summer to help my students dive into literature and writing–and discover.
I keep thinking about what Dr. Sandy Mack said about the humanities during our session with him at the Folger: “Science teaches us how the world works; the humanities teach us how to be human.” That task, that effort, is too important to let these little speed bumps discourage me from its pursuit. Thursday, the students are going to arrive, and all the things I’m so excited about sharing with them are going to be in my hands like so many jewels. I’m not going to let the transactional stuff keep me from being happy about sharing those riches and watching the students learn just how beautiful they really are. I love my profession; I love the place in which I practice it; I love the students who go on these annual journeys with me. Everything else is unimportant.
* A longer version of this article was first published on Tales from the Ivory Tower on August 3, 2015.
Shauna Rynn Waters teaches high school English at Meridian High School in Meridian, MS and is a recent graduate of Folger’s Summer Academy 2015. You can read more about her life as a teacher at Tales from the Ivory Tower.