Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Broken

Shhh!! I am trying to get something done here.

Amid all the splashing, crashing ocean waves, crystal clear skies and sunlight, I am chained to my desk. Spring break has broken. I have a week and a half off and I am frantically working to position myself for maximum teaching in the three weeks leading to AP exams starting in May.

In Los Angeles, there is no spring; we cut right to summer. It is eighty-plus degrees out and the Santa Ana winds are in full, gusty form. And I am correcting, correcting, correcting. I planned it out: seven days to do seven sets of essays. Plus, I must reread several books, organize handouts, and plan the next month of lessons.

Most people see this as a week’s vacation. Just add it to the eight weeks of summer and two weeks for Christmas, and we have a cushy job, right?

Teaching is a full time job, and even when I am home, I am working. At school, I am teaching classes, meeting with students, supervising teachers, attending various meetings, meetings, meetings. At home, I am writing lessons, correcting papers, reviewing curriculum. Year ‘round, I am teaching, thinking about teaching or preparing to teach.

Now, with the poor economy, I will probably teach summer session as well.

There is one upside to all of this: I can immerse myself in the reading and writing. I do not have to think about what I am missing in my life, what I wish I were doing, and what the future might hold. So maybe too much work is a blessing in disguise. Somehow though, I cannot escape the feeling that all this work is unhealthy. It is survival, that is all. But I will worry about that later.

Later has a way of becoming now, today, change your life.

I wanted to spend these days figuring out how writing will fit into my increasingly busy teaching schedule.

I wanted to exercise, and get a head start on losing weight and healthy eating.

I wanted to seek out an agent, a publisher, magazine markets that might accept me as a freelancer.

I wanted to get some sleep.

So far, I have accomplished the last one. I am getting a full eight hours or more of sleep each night. On that front, I do feel better. I will need the rest when we start back on April 12th.

I read an article in The New York Times about The New Yorker editor-in-chief, David Remnick, a writer I admire very much. Remnick has edited the magazine for twelve years now, week by week, amassing a track record of excellence in journalism in keeping with the long tradition of excellence at The New Yorker.

Oh, and he just published a 672-page biography of President Obama.

He did it with coffee, the original energy drink.

Malcolm Gladwell comments that Remnick “cruises around and chats with people and then disappears and writes thousands of words in 15 minutes.” Gladwell thinks Remnick makes it look easy, editing and writing.

“During the year he spent on The Bridge,” writer Stephanie Clifford says about Remnick and his book, “he rose at 5:30 a.m. to write and often stayed up past midnight, but rarely discussed the book at work.”

Remnick’s wife, Esther B. Fein, put the fine point on her husband’s work ethic. “He got up really early, went back to work after dinner with the kids, and took no weekends off and no vacation for more than a year.”

This is the kind of guy I would like to follow around for a week, not in a stalkerish kind of way, but just to see how he fits it all in.

I once thought that life would settle down in the middle years. Not a chance. In fact, I find myself more desperate now because time is short. When you are twenty, life seems almost limitless. Not so at 46.

Our consistent working is one forward motion. We cannot help ourselves. Maybe there is no rest for the weary. Maybe work—the stuff we were meant to do with our lives—keeps us sane as well as occupied.

I don’t have time to think much more about this. I have too many papers to correct, and AP exams are three weeks away.

So keep the noise down.


  1. Well put. Today, of all days, I needed to read this, needed to know that someone else is the same way, and that above all, it is all worth it. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, La Brown Girl. Teachers often feel isolated: they work alone in front of a class. I find that when I get together with other teachers, we have much in common--the same fears, hopes, and dreams.

    It is worth it, and we are not alone.

    Take care.


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