There are many new years. January 1 for those of us on the Gregorian calendar. January 23 this year for those on the Chinese luni-solar calendar (and a wonderful new year it is in this the Year of the Dragon). There are the myriad fiscal new years, whether starting October 1 (U.S.) or April 1 (India and Canada) or July 1 (Australia). And then there is the teacherly new year: that day when all the quizzes and tests and essays and projects and exams have been graded, every last shred of paper accounted for, marked up, noted down, etc. When all the comments have been written, proofread, corrected, re-proofread, and entered into whatever program the school uses. That day, a teacher can feel almost reborn, no longer bowed under by the weight of a burdensome bookbag full of work and a semester’s worth of anxieties and responsibilities.
For me, that day came last Friday, and I sailed into a a weekend of leisurely bliss. I could read whatever I wanted–this year, the weekend was given over to Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James’ new mystery set in the land of Lizzy and Darcy (and so much fun to read while teaching Pride and Prejudice at the same time). I could sleep late, or better yet, rise early, make a pot of tea (always Harney’s Earl Grey on Sundays), and then climb back into bed with book and newspaper and tea and not get up until two. I could stir the basket full of New Yorkers for something fun to skim. I could make a huge pot of soup, happily chopping vegetable for an hour in preparation. I could start that online class about HDR photography. I could dream about the possibilities. And tonight, Monday, I can come home, finish prepping for tomorrow by 6:00 pm and have an evening yawn invitingly before me. I can write, read, daydream, or simply stare out the window. Bliss.
So many aspects of teaching to love. I get to plunge into a sea of poetical words every day. I get to think about the nature of language and the reality it both describes and creates. I get to see a look of comprehension light up a student’s face or, even better, the glow of inspiration as she takes an idea farther than any of us had thought of before. I get to read the works of budding scholars or help the progress of the neophyte writer who begins to see the way to clarity. I just do not get to have my evenings to myself very often. So here’s to the teacher’s new year! An evening of joy before the onslaught of paper begins again.