School has started, and the routine of another year has begun to settle into my house and my alarm clock. My own kids are tired from waking up at 6 a.m. to catch the bus, yet they are contradictorily happy to be back to their budding social lives.
For my own part, it’s been difficult easing back into the swing of things. I find myself starving mid-morning, ready for lunch when I still have an hour or more of class to teach. When I finally do get a quick meal, I slowly realize I can’t take the nap my body has become accustomed to. Last but certainly not least, my bladder is back in training to remember the bell schedule. After having two children, this can cause a bit of an emergency situation and a mad sprint down the hallway.
While this year has started much like the ones that have come before, something seems different this year… perhaps a bit “off.” I’ve been trying to pinpoint the cause of my perplexed state of mind.
The students are typical: eager to socialize again with their friends and flirt with potential significant others while grumbling about the impending learning which must happen to qualify as an actual school day.
In the hallways of my school roam students from a smattering of backgrounds. The seniors confidently stroll to class, not worried about the looming ding of the tardy bell: This group is beyond caring about being tardy, and they are doing what they must to either drag themselves through nine more months of school or cross their T’s and dot their I’s in order to get into that school of choice or branch of the military.
Freshmen are at the other end of the “cool” spectrum. Some are tiny and seem to shrink even smaller as an enlarged, sweaty football player passes in the hallway. These innocent newbies weave through the crowds, hoping to disappear and have no major interactions on the way to class. Other freshmen appear cocky and calm until approached by an upperclassman, where they will promptly remember that this is their first week in high school, and they don’t really want to be on anyone’s radar.
The juniors and sophomores find themselves in the true middle: not quite possessing the status of the established seniors but not anymore the underdog. These are the true middle children of the school family… trying to figure out where they fit.
All the students—weird kids with capes, lost and panicked freshmen, overly sensitive honors kids, half-asleep seniors dragging themselves to class, kids with stacks of binders and books—they are the easy part. Even the kid who did nothing in my class last year but who stopped by to say hi and how much he misses my class, or the graduate who I ran into at the grocery store who said she wishes she could go back to the easy days of high school: They all make it worth it.
These kids—all of these kids—are what bring me to these hallways each day and are what I look forward to, even on the tough days. Their humor and wit—even their sorrows and struggles—make my job worth the pains.
So what are the pains? Why does it feel so different this year?
A wise man once told me that there are two schools inside a school: the one with the students and their drama and the one with the faculty and their drama.
I think I’m finally beginning to understand what he meant. And I’ve had to take a step back to see it.
There will always be the minutia of the paperwork and hoops of beginning a new school year: professional development plans, evaluation plans with an administrator, preparation for open houses and parent contacts, club meetings, department meetings, PLC meetings, meetings for meetings…
Dealing with people brings its own set of hoops and work. For the first time, I am realizing the scope of the “second school” and the drama that comes along with it.
High schools are known as pits of gossip—nearly as dangerous as pits full of vipers—and we know how cruel kids can be. However, since I’ve paused to listen and observe, I have heard much more gossip and venomous bites coming from faculty than from the adolescents in the building. I’m not innocent. I have done my fair share of the “did-you-hears” and the “no-she-didn’ts.” This year I’m trying to change those old habits, and I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be.
It’s one thing to keep your own thoughts, actions, and words positive: In fact, it’s positively exhausting! When you add Emotional Vampires into the mix—and things you can’t control—it’s beyond exhausting. It’s completely draining.
People smarter than me (there are many) say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit; I’m less than two weeks in, and I’m exhausted. But I’m all in. I may not have control over the pettiness of some of my coworkers or the fact that they claim to hate gossip and drama, yet they feed off the rumor mill. I do have control over my own actions, and I’m hoping to model something positive to my students and anyone else who may be watching… from either of the two schools which exist in our school.