October = Disillusionment

Ever year, like clockwork, the end of September hits. Its cool breezes and shorter days are welcomed after a hot, long summer like a literal breath of fresh air. Feeling exhausted after a long day spent teaching, disciplining, grading, mothering, coaching feels exhilarating compared to the summer days that end with a simple question: What the hell did I even do today? It’s almost fun to transition from boredom to survival mode in the span of one short month.

This, in a nutshell, is why I love fall. A new school year, a new crop of students (and, if you’re lucky, a few of the old ones stop by, too), a new personae, new lessons, new books, a renewed sense of purpose. Things aren’t dying in the fall; they are becoming new again with each crisp breeze, with each fire-red leaf. It’s why I became a teacher, why I got married in the fall, why I pack every fall weekend full of something amazing and wonderful.

And then, the end of October follows the end of September. The air gets colder, the days get shorter, the teacher gets more and more exhausted. What used to feel like a sense of purpose now feels like an unsustainable amount of work, and there are never enough hours in the day. This is what we, in the world of education, call “Disillusionment.”

When I was first shown the first year teacher’s roller coaster pictured above (albeit unfortunately sans freaked-out roller coaster rider), I was a first year teacher in mid-October. I believe I was crying in the English department office with my mentor consoling me, but also knowingly smirking because she’d been there. They’d all been there. It’d eventually get better.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that this roller coaster – taking teachers from anticipation, through survival,  down to disillusionment, then up through rejuvenation, reflection, and back to anticipation – applied to all of the years of teaching. Or, at least to the first eight so far as I can tell. But we keep coming back; the power of anticipation is strong, and the pain of disillusionment eventually wears off. At some point in November, you crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself, dust yourself off, and remember what it is like to have a life, to really teach, and to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.

This year, I’ve been stuck firmly in disillusionment. Right on schedule. And all of this is a way of explaining to you why I haven’t been keeping up here. In fact, I almost never write much in October. A few years ago, I even quit blogging in October. This is just the life of a teacher. Cyclical and eerily predictable, though almost comfortingly so.

As I looked outside today and it was snowing, I realized it has been almost two months since I’ve posted here, which is unacceptable in a way, but necessary in many others. I’ve missed it terribly. I’ve had so many things to say, but never enough time to say them. This is me trying to start carving out some time again. It’ll be a while before I really start to rejuvenate, provided I stay on schedule, but I hope to be back at it regularly before too long.

Featured Image Credit: Pinterest

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