We just finished the longest stretch of the school year. We pack a lot between the August Faculty Meetings when we are still in shorts and sandals, still tanned and relaxed until November 17, the day the students leave for Thanksgiving Break. We are no longer tanned nor are we remotely well-rested. We are tired from the demands of teenagers and the demands of our schedules. Teaching; coaching; dorm duty. Truthfully, the kids are tired of us…….and yes, we are tired of them. “Go home, children! We need a break! “(said in the most loving tone possible, of course…..)
What is the fall like for a boarding school teacher? We return to a new crop of students in our classrooms, in our dorms and on our teams. And while it is full and wonderful, most days, it takes a lot of energy to “learn” these new young people. I wrote seventeen college recommendations before November 1st. I wrote an article that was published in The New York Times. The first weekend of October we held Parents Weekend when we conference with our students’ parents. I also call this “Apple/Tree Weekend”; suddenly everything makes sense.
Dorm duty every Sunday evening plus three full weekends on duty since September. Remember, friends, that’s three fun-filled evenings in a row. Yes, that is a lot of together time and a lot of conversations with teenage boys about lacrosse tournaments, Fantasy Football, Macbeth, history thesis papers, No Shave November, dorm jobs, where to get the best calzones…….you get the point.
What else filled my time this fall? A Faculty in Charge Weekend during which I chaperoned a Friday night soccer game, patrolled the field house for canoodling couples and attended a student-run concert; drove kids to the local shopping center; chaperoned the Halloween Dance while dressed as a shark; discovered seven panicked girls on campus at 11pm who were NOT students here but still needed to get home before curfew; drove a van full of international students to H-Mart, the Asian supermarket. Oh, and then dorm duty on Sunday night.
And while I could write a blog post for almost each one of the aforementioned events, they were all anticipated duties and not remotely unfamiliar or surprising to other boarding school teachers.
But it was the “in between times” that challenged us.
The Sunday before Halloween, the campus lost power at 2 am. As dorm head, I needed to be on “fire watch” because ….well, just because. No hot water; no electricity. And then we had classes. Yep, that was pretty. I was asked once an hour, “Do you know when the power is coming back on?” At first, I politely responded, “Why, no I don’t.” By the thirty-second time, I wanted to scream, “Do I look like a psychic for National Grid???”
But of course, I didn’t.
The power was eventually restored…...two and half days later.
Last week, our campus lost a beloved teacher who had dedicated forty years to our community. I lost a confidant, a mentor and a dear friend who walked the marshes with me for years. Someday I may be able to write about Kathy, but right now I can’t find the words.
I am reminded that life in a boarding school is a rich narrative, and these months felt particularly full.
And so, we made it to Thanksgiving Break. And for that we are grateful.