Over the last three or four weeks, I’ve been stressing and worrying and enjoying and laughing my way through what I believe to be my 20th high school production for the public, as an educator. While I’m glad that it’s over, I’m also a little sad. It was so much fun to work with students who enjoyed what they were doing, to bring the play to various locations in our little town (three schools, a long-term care facility, and the LaSalle Theatre) — in spite of the headaches, angst, and schedule juggling, I was reminded of how much I truly love doing theatre. It’s easy to see how some can devote their lives to slogging through the process in off-off-Broadway venues, living hand-to-mouth for the sake of the art. It’s as enthralling as it is exhausting. And now that this performance is over — I posted the video of the final performance on YouTube, if you’d like to see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKvHegX2beA&feature=youtu.be — and I start to put away props and costumes, I half-wonder what to do with myself now.
I’ve got the usual list of chores and required tasks; I’ve got books to read and edit (looking forward to those!), marking to complete (always interesting to see what the students have to say), laundry to catch up on again (never really did get on that after finishing NaNoWriMo), and holiday preparations to make. I haven’t even started my Christmas cards, or wrapping presents. Thank heaven for online shopping, or else I wouldn’t have that done, either, although only half of the gifts I’ve ordered have arrived . . .
The final week of school before the break approaches as I write this. Hours away. I should be sleeping. The trouble is that the last week is very low on focus: we’re all tired, drained, ready for some relief from the daily routines, exhausted by the dark and the cold, and seeking distraction through present shopping, parties, choirs, holiday assemblies, etc. When I was a first-year teacher, I was bound and determined to teach every single class left this week, up to the minute. Thirteen years on, I still would like to use the time. Experience has taught me that the ideal and the reality are often very different things, though . . . At the very least, everyone needs to get in their independent novel studies by the end of the week. No homework over the break, except for the rounds of marking and editing…
Imagine, though, if high schools in Ontario started their school years in mid-August, when there is already a coolness to the air, and had exams in December like the colleges do, ending the semester with a two-week break. I can already anticipate the rush and stress of wrapping up the courses I have in those three weeks after the holidays, marking exams and culminating activities in a hurry while prepping for second semester in a matter of days. What would happen if January started as a fresh semester instead? And if we ended our year at the beginning of June, just when the weather is turning hot? Or if we adopted the system of 6 weeks on, two weeks off, year-round? This is such a long stretch, from Hallowe’en to Christmas (or Samhain to Yule, if you prefer), mentally and physically draining — it’s no wonder that the last week of school is sometimes just a write-off, a festival of in-class “film studies” and assemblies. We do try to get things done, but there is only so much a human being can take. I know I passed my limit some time ago, and that was even without the play.
My husband had suggested to me that I not do a play at all, seeing how tired I was from the pressures at work, but I chose to keep going because it was a positive, affirming activity that got me working with students who wanted to do good things. Kids who were willing to make the effort to bring something awesome to this community, reaching out to the young and the old. Being able to do that makes the rest of it much more bearable. I can’t not do extracurriculars — they are my salvation on rough days in the classroom, even if they wipe me out at the same time.
1 am. I will go to bed, try to sleep although I know how hyper the teenagers will be tomorrow and that it’s going to be both a slow and fast week. I didn’t make it to my staff Christmas party (was doing the play), and I haven’t heard of a Secret Santa gift exchange, and that’s too bad. But there are other things to look forward to, including the staff-student basketball game. I’ve decided to play this year, using my usual dirty technique of simply falling upon passing players like a tree in the forest. Maybe I’ll even bring some props this time . . .
The trouble is that when I’m up late, I can ignore the darkness of the day because I’m ensconced in the womb of the night. So much quieter, more peaceful, easier to think and sort and read. One week to go, and then the break, which will fly by as it always does. I’ll try to fill it with creative activities, too.