We can finally see the grass here in Camrose. It is even starting to look suspiciously green. All over town there are items that are in the most random places that are flattened or weathered, finally making their hiding places known after months of being blanketed in white-grey snow.
The last month has brought the end of a semester for Robbie, another round of report cards for me, a six-week placement for Robbie in Ponoka, the purchase of a beautiful iMac, and my last round of Parent-Teacher interviews for the year. I have still been striving for that great outcome, balance.
One way that I’ve tried to make my life richer has been to revisit one of my favourite activities. I have been listening to story tapes (ahem mp3’s). In the place of the previously convenient portable tape player I now have my even more convenient iPhone 4 and the audiobooks app keeping me intrigued through hours of wonderful stories. The audiobooks app uses recordings from librivox.org, an amazing website where you can upload recordings of works in the public domain. The key part here is that it is all quite wonderfully free. You have to dig around a bit sometimes to get a great narrator. When you find one, you take advantage of each of their recordings. I have hit the mark with Karen Savage who exquisitely reads the Anne of Green Gables series.
I am ashamed to say that before now, I have only read (or listened to) the first, most famous of these books, the excellent Anne of Green Gables. The fact that I had yet to venture past this first account of Anne’s life in its purest form, is something that has hung over my head for a long time. However, putting this necessary task in my life off has resulted in impeccable timing for my consumption of these rich works.
Anne, the most kindred of spirits ever written into existence, is someone to not just marvel at when you are a child, but to grow up with as an adult. In consuming these works as an adult I have a fuller appreciation for what L.M. Montgomery accomplished in writing these books.
At 25 I can see how funny it is when Gilbert Blythe, the intelligent, but mischievous schoolboy makes his fateful mistake in calling Anne Carrots. This is due to the undeniable red colour of her hair. This devastating action is only the beginning of Gilbert’s persistent love for the very girl he taunted out of a desire to win her over. He is always there in the best romantic sense. He does not woo her with sonnets and scripts, but with his still, calm presence of mind, much like someone else I know. Then to partake in and percieve how Anne is transfigured from a proud, vain little girl who over the course of 3 novels takes humble steps away from her tempestuous nature to rightfully discover that romance was patiently waiting for her ‘yes‘ the whole time.
As someone who often still feels like that proud, vain, tempestuous little girl more than I’d like to admit and whose own leaving behind of the childish, dramatic, and romantic has been quite a challenge, I have been comforted by this transformation. It is her growing up that has been of enjoyment to me more than I could have expected.
There is nothing of more interest in these books to me in my current state of life as Anne’s first 2 years of teaching as they are chronicled in Anne of Avonlea. We certainly have a lot in common. The fatigue of the daily grind of teaching coupled with the throwing away of theories that just don’t work for everyone is the same today. The personal doubts, the joys and despairs, the deep knowing that this profession is time well spent have managed to persist from those pages into my reality. Wisdom in teaching is only won through experience.
I am sure that she would be scandalized by the classrooms of 2013. There are some discouraging disparities. Anne after all, did not have a daily battle with smartphones over the attention of her pupils. Anne would never dream of reading The Outsiders to her students which would have been judged for its vulgarity. The world is a very different place, and I have nothing against The Outsiders, it is just jarring to think how different children are from 100 years ago.
Yet, the purpose of instilling recognition of the good of the other and the self has remained the same.
If I were to write about my first year of teaching, I’m sure I could include many harrowing stories. I could focus on my failures. Just now, I’ve been thinking mostly about my successes. Perhaps this is a little premature to celebrate them, but I want to enjoy them before the insanity and restlessness of May and June kick into full gear. I’ve been thinking about my most memorable moments of encouraging those students who lack the confidence to see who they really are: a valuable piece in our shared community. I’ve been thinking about the students who had it in for me at the beginning of the year, that I’ve persisted with showing that no matter how many times they show me their devious, malicious side, I will at the very least give them a smile and the benefit of the doubt.
This is the work that I am proud of this year. Not my lessons, worksheets or ability to photocopy. It is overwhelming and discouraging to think that I will start it all again many times over. I will go through those dark days when I will ask the question, “What am I doing with my life?” But there will be Spring every year. I am sure of it.
Needless to say, my mornings and evenings have been enriched by the words of L.M. Montgomery. While I brush my teeth, blow-dry my hair, prepare my lunches and dinners I am in a different world with familiar characters and dear friends. This different world has for once illuminated the sweet and uncomfortable corners of my own life rather than deaden them. That, after all, is the difference between time well spent and time wasted away.