Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Vertical Life

There's always sadness mixed into this time of year; the melancholy of approaching the end of the school year, knowing that some of these kids, these families, many of whom I've known for 3 or more years (in some cases many more) are moving on. I take comfort, of course, in knowing that every year, most of the kids are returning or that younger siblings will guarantee I stay in touch, but there are always a few of them I'll never see again.

It's in the nature of being a teacher to be a rock in the stream, standing in one place while the river races by, tumbling over and around you, shaping you while you're shaping it.

We started our 3-5's parent meeting last night by going around the circle, remembering nine months back to what we said were our hopes and dreams for our children, then reflecting on the year, what our children learned and what we, the adults, learned as well. There were some tears, as their ought to be, and we laughed a lot too, especially when we thought back to who we all were back then and comparing that to who we are now.

One of the themes of Thomas Mann's great novel The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg) is the passage of time: how when one lives life "horizontally" (reflectively, disengaged, in repose) the time may seem long as you live it, passing slowly, yet when you look back, you see a largely empty blur of sameness that, in fact, passed in flash. When, on the other hand, you live "vertically" (active, engaged, moving forward) the time passes in a flash as you live it, yet seems impossibly rich, full and long in retrospect. As we passed the hopes and dreams torch around our little circle last night, I couldn't help but recognize that we've definitely lived a vertical year together. September was just yesterday, but from the perspective of May, I can't believe all that we've done both as a community (moving to new digs, building a new outdoor classroom, starting a new school) and as individuals. How could we possibly have done all that?

I may, on another day, wind up pulling out some purple-tinted prose to finish writing a sappy piece about all of this, but what I mainly want to do is bask on the best and most concrete reward of being a teacher in this community: the kind words and acts of appreciation that come my way as we wind down for the year. I've had a few other jobs over my half century -- baseball coach, salesman, junior businessman, writer -- none of which provide, like teaching does, this natural, emotional, even cathartic moment in May when we're all still together, but knowing the time is short. 

I'm looking forward to summer, but I'm also clinging to these people and their children for two more weeks; and I know I'm not the only one who looks forward to the future, but wishes that the next 14 days would pass as slowly as it passed for Hans Castorp as he lay, horizontal, in his sanatorium bed running the mildest of fevers. But that isn't who we are. We are always vertical together and it will be behind us the next we blink. But oh it will be a time to look back upon and think what fantastic adventures we shared.

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Granola Funk Mama said...

Wow. What a beautiful campus you have. I love the windmill. Now I feel the need to do some redecorating around here. Thanks for the visual ideas. And for the words as well. I feel the vertical time.

TifSchaefer said...

As a first year teacher, your words couldn't ring more true in my heart. I teach 32 kids with five other teachers in a pre-k classroom and I am surprised that I am the only one a little choked up that the years almost over! Not to imply the other teachers don't care, but I think that since it's my first class these children will always be in my heart. And, like you mentioned, there are always siblings! :)

Great post to reflect on as we come into graduation. Thanks Tom! -Tiffany

Unknown said...

so beautifully written

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