A Year of Morning Thanks
The prof's duds
Back home again. Just outside my window, the unsettled motion of yellowing leaves catches my eyes, falling from the crab tree, as leaves do, even though it's only early August. In late afternoon, the cicadas start their infernal whining, sirening each other, I suppose, for courtship or whatever, but making it almost impossible to sit outside.
On campus, kids appear like spies, college kids, maybe like Noah's doves. There are ever more people around inside the buildings, and, generally, what's unmistakable is the fact that summer is ending. Back in New Mexico, school is starting already next week. Thank goodness we've still got 10 days--or whatever. The signs are all over. School is about to start.
I don't hate teaching. I've done it all my life, and I've been quite successful, really. But there are fears I've never quite been able to shake, fears that possess me at the beginning of another year. I don't want to be a dork. I don't want to come off as a nag, and I'm tired of being a salesman, trying to peddle literature to a generation who would much, much rather discuss Batman than Bartleby.
But, sooner rather than later, we'll be at it again, and the room will be full of unfamiliar faces when I walk in--quiet kids, still feeling their way through the interpersonal thickets that college life present, in the classroom as well as out. And me--after 35 years of teaching--I'll be just as dysfunctional as they are, trying to be cute and sweet and nice and funny, trying to please, like the salesman I've become.
On Sunday morning I met a student I had 20 years ago, and he announced from his pulpit that I had played a very influential role in his life. I need to remember that, too--because those things happen. They do.
It's time to get ready.
This morning I probably need to remind myself to be grateful for having a hand in people's lives, a hand that has been dealt me as a teacher. Teaching is a noble profession, I guess. It's just that, right now, late summer, it's hard to feel noble about it. Any day now, I'll have to drag that old public self, Professor Schaap, out of summer's mothballs, and slip back into it tight confines, which ain't easy. But it's got to be done.
This morning, write that syllabus, Schaap. No more stories. Once again. Soon enough they'll be here.