as i was saying

April 11, 2006

“So that marvelously executed interior paint job,” you were wondering, “how, pray tell, did that miracle-working occur?” I shall happily tell you the story. It happened one Friday . . .
As soon as the bell released the students and, yes, the teachers, I was on a mission. To my beloved Lowes to peruse the paint, consult with the store experts, and definitively place my paint-mixing shade order. To my car laden with “Lighthouse”-hued Matte Interior paint. And to my apartment for project preparation.
In between, however, was a phone call to my Grandpa: “PaCharley? Hi . . . so remember when I mentioned to you the possibility of helping when, sometime in the future, I would repaint my place—you remember? We were planning for, say, close to the summer when things calmed down at work? Well I kind of couldn’t wait that long. I know I’m being impulsive, so please don’t feel like you have to help now but—yeah—I decided to start tonight . . .”
Of course, it being PaCharley, by the time I made it home he was in full painting gear, laden with rollers, brushes, drop cloths, step ladder, paint sticks, bucket, paint can opener, etc. etc. . . In other words, anything you could possibly need, he was prepared for. And he was waiting at my door.
Several hours later, he bid me goodnight. I happily hugged him, thanked him profusely, and returned to the project, which I was finished with by the end of the next day. As I worked, I thought.
And I realized that I needed that project. I was desperate to be instantly, obviously productive. I was also in need of the wise counsel and sweet companionship of my Pa Charley. He listened to my ramblings and to my fuming. And he offered in return his gently challenging feedback as well as the simple, sweet gift of his quiet company.
You see, I was angry. I was frustrated with the effort of pouring my energies into lesson planning and passionate lecturing, to be greeted by teenage apathy and carelessness. I had pleaded with them to listen, if only for 5 minutes. I explained that I was prepared to spoon-feed them with the basic literary knowledge that would carry them into college prepared. I begged them to understand how vital of a role this poet had played in the civil rights movement, in the empowerment of African Americans, and of women. But they did not care—or at least gave no indication of caring. They giggled over bodily functions and gossiped about comments made by peers, and by teachers. And in the end, I gave up. I spent the end of the day changing the subject until I stumbled upon a topic that caught their interest. Then I joked around with them.

I do love these students, and have enjoyed the year of getting to know them slowly through subbing stints and library consultations. And I know better than to cling too dearly to my own plan for what they will take away from any given lesson. But I do cling, all the same, in spite of knowing better.
So this past weekend, I recognized my frustration and—gulp—yes, my anger—and I did something about it. I reclaimed my own space, my own home, my own life. And I dare say, my Lighthouse-hued walls look da** fine :-)

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