Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back to School

Yesterday was my first day back to school, which I started by spraying bathroom air freshener all over my head. In my excitement, I’d grabbed the Glade instead of the Garnier. I didn’t want to add hairspray on top of that, so I went to campus a little flyaway, yet disinfected and citrusy. When I got to the English Department, the AC was not working very well: I walked in to find office workers and faculty members moving about in slow motion, smiling their welcome-back smiles through sheens of sweat. I joined this halting parade, killing 99.9% of the germs and viruses in my path.

Once in the classroom, it was back to offering myself up to the gods of America’s Future. I made myself call out all of my students’ names, first and last, mangling them as I went, hoping that the laugher at my expense would go in the bank so I could withdraw it later when my students start disliking me for the grades they get. I left my last class of the day with sagging sanitized hair, chapstick caked around my mouth, and sweaty feet. Yum.

Yet, it was a good day. A very good day. Teaching is one thing that I can say I was born to do, despite what anybody else might say. Going into a classroom to face twenty-five representatives of America who expect me to further them along whatever path they’re on is, for the most part, a complete pleasure on my part. And when it’s not a pleasure—when the grades are not good or I accidentally make fun of someone’s birth defect or I wear my shirt inside out—the saving grace is just being there, lost in teaching. I could always teach and forget a broken heart for at least those 75 minutes; I could teach and not feel terror that my dad had cancer. I had to teach a few days after my cat died and I didn’t cry for 75 minutes in a row, which was a record at the time.

So here is to a new school year: the hesitant laughter and forgivable errors, the flying time and unplanned pregnant pauses—the lessons in public speaking, both intended and not.

Click here


  1. As you already know my wife teaches teaches 2nd grade and apparently it is starting off well for her with her new class.

    May your class be attentive and bright making your job easier and fun. If they don't pay attention to you in class slap 'em with a 5000 word essay on Life and Death through the Dark Ages - due the next class day.

    Hope it all goes well

  2. Kate...

    I know I am a sad soul...but we do share similarities.

    I, too, teach.

    And being with those other souls, those souls hungry for something, anything, truly helps get me through my days.

    I can be in my classroom, which for me is my sanctuary, and it's about as near to bliss as I'll ever find.

    I've lost loved ones to cancer, I've had my heart recently shattered to smithereens, I KNOW the resplendent joy of having my mind occupied for however long it might be.

    It's a godsend.

    I'm thankful for both of us that school began again.

    I feel it's our time to shine!

    Shine on, Kate. You should!

  3. That video was at once terribly annoying and superbly precious. I imagine that's what teaching is like. Good pick.

    Just out of curiosity, are all the 40-somethings at the Coffee Shop other than me either teachers or married to one?

  4. Darn you Kate, I teared up! Have a great year!

    And Legacy, no.

  5. I found your blog on the "Funny not slutty" network and I'm glad I did! I was laughing out loud at the image of you slaying germs right and left with the "product" in your hair.

  6. Kate, gave me a much needed laugh with "I went to campus a little flyaway, yet disinfected and citrusy....... I joined this halting parade, killing 99.9% of the germs and viruses in my path." If any of my teachers had a sense of humour like yours I would have loved them.