Before Night Falls


     At first whenever other teachers saw me enter the building, they always stopped me in the hallway with a bemused expression on their faces.  “I thought you had retired from teaching.”

     They always grinned as if perhaps, they had misunderstood the meaning of the retirement luncheon, and the gift of a little silver cup engraved with the years of my service. Now, they are so accustomed to seeing me that a quick nod of acknowledgement speeds our encounters. It makes me happy to know that my appearance in the school is such a normal part of their day.

“Sunset and evening star, and one clear call f...
“Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea”~ (Photo credit: turtlemom4bacon)

      However, It is the greeting I receive from the students that really makes it worthwhile to slide out of bed at 5:45 in the morning. I always feel like a conquering hero every single time the kids rush forward, asking, “Who are you subbing for today?”

     They say they cheer because, for that day I will be their teacher, but I have taught for too many years not to know they are really cheering for the break in their routine. Nevertheless, their excitement is contagious and I feel as I did the first day I ever stepped into a classroom—equal mixtures of ecstatic anticipation and apprehension. Don’t know why I feel nervous. After so many years my memories contain many lesson plans, perfect for any occasion. But teaching means engaging with life, and life is ever changing and unpredictable—and so there is always a thimble-full of apprehension.

     Those equal measures of excitement, apprehension, the fatigue at the end of the day and the joy of a job well done fill my life.

    Today, I remembered three lines of one of Tennyson’s poems, “Ulysses.” Those lines reveal that he, too, must have experienced the same emotions I do: the tingle of apprehension, the tears of fatigue and the electric shock of joy at the end of the day for many, many glorious days before night fell.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

As though to breathe were life!

I think that now I shall have to write a poem of my own…

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