I need to say for the record that there are several things I do not miss about teaching public school. Namely: parent complaints/meetings; student sense of apathy; 30% failure rates due in large part to laziness, then the direction to “give them an option for passing” long past due dates; classes with 30+ students; poor regulation of heating and cooling, resulting in never being able to dress for the season; lack of windows. There are also several things I do not miss about teaching private school: parent complaints/meetings; student sense of entitlement; 20% A-B borderline students, then the direction to “give them an option for the A” long past due dates; classes with only one student who would rather carry on 90-minute personal conversations with me, than do work; working the “car line” from the parking lot from February to April, the coldest rainiest months of the year (which was, essentially, calling the names of mostly high school students to alert them to the fact that their parents were waiting, a fact they very well could have ascertained themselves by simply watching out the windows of the gym).
That said, there are probably more things I actually do miss about teaching, both public and private school, and it helps me once in a while to remind myself that the bad days and the good moments did not usually feel equal, even though they probably were. I miss getting to dress up in adult clothes and cute shoes without the risk of being stepped on or touched with grimy hands (though, not so much when I was pregnant, because most kids thought this was a free pass to belly rub their way into my good graces). I miss writing on white boards. I’m a freak. But I really like multi-colored white board markers and notes which require their use, in full. I do actually miss those moments when students decided to like me, and then told me so. It was usually late in coming, but often worth the months of sarcasm, me vs. you verbal fights, and write-ups. I’m quite sure now that I’m gone, there’s not a single student left who still hates me. I miss journaling for the first 10 minutes of every class, with my students. (I was an excellent role model.) But most of all, I miss the reading time. I miss reading Ender’s Game (and other books) aloud to my classes. I miss Fridays, which were made up of silent reading, three times a day, 45 minutes at a time. On average, including the texts I was teaching, I could read close to seven books a semester. Fourteen a year. All because of my personally implemented mandatory Friday silent reading.
It took me almost three months to finish the last book I read, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I also realize that as Oprah’s bookclub pick from 2008, I was a little behind the trend curve to even pick it up. I found it a little more than ironic, therefore, while trudging through the ever slow second half, that I never caught the fact that it is a modern parallel to Hamlet. I’ve read Hamlet on my own at least four times. I taught Hamlet. How the death of the father by poison, then the revelation, by way of a ghost, to the father’s son, that the uncle did it, escaped me, I can only blame on my months out of the classroom. In fact, I don’t think you can Google The Story of Edgar Sawtelle without seeing “Hamlet” somewhere in the byline, yet, seriously, I read the entire book not knowing every character would basically be dead by the end. Had I known of the intentional parallel, I might have finished the book a little sooner. And. I might have liked it a little more.
As it was, the story was okay, but it didn’t blow my mind, as it did Oprah’s and so many of her million viewers. I’m now picking up two books simultaneously – one for bookclub: Shadow Tag (Louise Erdich) and one that has been on my to-read list for more than a year: The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak). If you’ve read either feel free to pass along some nuggets of opinion, and don’t worry about spoiling the endings. I’ve always been a reader who skims the last chapter of a book to make sure the ending is worth the entire read. Surprise ending are so overrated for busy people with long to-read lists. For this very reason, I have a very select handful of good friends I can count on to recommend good books, and outside of that list, I generally (politely) ignore you-should-read… suggestions.
I can assure anyone, however, that I can always be counted on for suggested worthwhile reads, even if your taste resides at the Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham level. Don’t be offended, Sparks/Grisham lovers. I’m not mocking nor looking down on you. It’s just that, if I can get just as much (or more) out of the movie version, I will more than likely forgo the reading of the book. I can, however, suggest something for even you.