A Silent Summer

A few weeks ago, I started making a list of things that I want to do this summer. The list reads like every other incomplete list from every previous summer: go to the museum; read; write; work on Letters’ Lounge; go fishing; go to the gym. Everything I want to do this summer is something that I’ve wanted to do every other summer. At the end of every summer, the list is always incomplete.

Now that this summer is here, barring the job applications that I have to submit, the interviews I’ll hopefully have, and finishing up some work that I didn’t have time for before the year ended, I just want it to be quiet. Since about March, one thing I really want to do is just unplug and go off somewhere to do some fishing for a few days. I’ll have to buy myself a nice, new rod first.

This year was loud. It was loud not because of the raised voices and active discussions in the classroom but because of the stress and the tension that I experienced. Being that I’m a new teacher, I wasn’t expecting an easy ride. This year, though, it was tough. I was constantly chasing a moving target, dealing with so many unexpected turns, and questioning so much of my teaching philosophy. I was never settled and never prepared, despite every effort I made to be.

I tried to not let this affect my students, but it did. They would see me some days and say to one another, “Mr. G is triggered.” Eventually, they would just let me go on little tirades about whatever I happened to be bothered by and then start up again once I had finished. Somehow, I think they knew that it was rarely about them.

Around April, I think, after a lengthy lunch-time meeting on professional conduct, I told the students that we couldn’t joke around anymore. They wouldn’t stand for it. They told me that one of the reasons that they even like me is because I make jokes with them. It was my humour that had won them over. For the next few weeks, they would catch me starting a joke and remind me, with a crooked grin on their faces, that I was about to get in trouble.

They made me laugh. Right from the beginning of the year, until the end, they made me laugh. I’d be up in arms about one thing or another and then one of them would say something that just set everybody straight with a show-stopping chuckle.

As the year was drawing to an end, I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t have enough time or didn’t do enough for them to prepare them for high school. “They don’t have a grasp of this concept in math. They can’t even write a paragraph. They don’t know when Canada Day is! If they just did their homework and used their class time well, they’d be better off. I don’t know what else I can do”

But, they’re going to be fine. They’re all capable enough to succeed at whatever they’re passionate about. I know this because when push came to shove, they’d show up. They’d do what they needed to do. They’d become resourceful and clever. They have a sense for survival.

Even still, it was just too loud. It was almost too much. Looking ahead while trying to catch up and start something new has drained me. I’m exhausted. I can’t listen to anyone anymore without feeling like they’re saying too much. Even just a kind, “Hello,” has become something I try to avoid. I’m tired.

So, now, as the summer is off to a start, I just want silence. I want to sit quietly at my desk, with my noise-cancelling headphones blasting out music, and pound away at the keyboard of my typewriter, all while drinking a few beers. When I tire of that, I want to work on my penmanship and read books. Then, I want to turn off my phone and just sit next to a campfire while I warm food I brought along with me on a fishing trip for one.

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