Sunday, March 6, 2016

Slump vs Pump

It's March and I feel slumpy, classroom slumpy.  I suppose it doesn't help that, out of curiosity, I find out that I could retire with some nice benefits in seven years.

Seven years? That's nothing.     Seven years? That's eternity--when you are feeling slumpy. 

I tell a colleague how I am feeling. What is wrong with me? "You are feeling your age!" she said brightly. "You are tired of the yearly troubles. I'm leaving when I turn 55." She is turning 50 this month. 

Well. There are yearly troubles. (My biggest complaint is that my district has NO PLAN to implement for students who can't read at grade level. Somehow they are supposed to just learn by being around others who can? Is reading osmotic? Doesn't W., who reads at the 3rd grade level,  need some actual instruction and practice? Doesn't J., who reads independently at the 4th grade level, deserve better? Why are there three Fs in my class? Hm, I invite you to look at their reading levels.) But this feels different.

Friday comes and I attend the Lamb's Players performance of "The Miracle Worker." I'm completely familiar with the story to the point that when we enter the theater and see the water pump where Helen will connect finger spelling with objects ("Everything has a name!" says Annie. "If I can just teach her one word..."), my eyes get misty. The set is inspired--all gray shapes except for the dining table, Annie's bed, and the pump, because shapes are the way Helen experiences the world's layout. At one point, Annie is reading aloud from her mentor, Dr. Anagnos: "Obedience is the key to education..." and I chuckle, because as a middle school teacher there seems to be so much resistance.

The play continues with Annie as frustrated as can be with her pupil's lack of progress and stubborn resistance. Yet giving up is the furthest thing from Annie's mind. She speaks of the mind as being the world, of the gift it is, of the privilege of helping another person open to it. My face has silent tears running down.

When the light breaks on Helen's face--when W-A-T-E-R marries the cool liquid on her fingers--my heart sings. When Helen bangs the pump to know what it is, I smile. When Helen touches Annie who spells out T-E-A-C-H-E-R, my slump packs its unwelcome bags and leaves.
Let there be light