Thursday, December 30, 2010

Right now, I am working on a paper that is not due until January 17, even though the class met for the last time early in December. Several times, when I explain my Incomplete to friends or family, I have referred to this extra time as a gift from the professor, a phenomenally intelligent math teacher who teaches a required class on theories of learning to doctoral students. All but two of the students in the seminar have taken the incomplete to have more time for the ambitious project she assigned us, and she willingly gave us the time. In fact, she encouraged us to take extra time for it. Free from the distractions of other course readings and time schedules, I have been able to dig into my topic, chosen for its importance in my field of teaching (literacy), reading widely and devouring entire books in some cases. I am learning so much that it overflows, and I need to meet with other teachers of writing to talk it over before I... well, explode, perhaps? I am really learning. Real learning requires time, and she has given me just that. I have joked about giving her a present when we turn in our papers and get on with the next semester; I probably won't, but then I am indebted to her.

The gift of love and support I get from John and from family helps me every day. John assures me, as he did the day we were married almost a year and half ago, that he is "in it for the long haul." So the fact that I am holed up with books and writing during what should be my winter break doesn't bother him. My family members ask me about school, rejoice with me when I get the chance to teach at university again, and listen to my ideas and my rants, just as they did when I was a classroom teacher. I sense that my sister Mary (a retired second grade teacher) and I are about to have the conversation we often had in earlier decades, about starting a school of our own, staffing it with all the best people we know. I know many good teachers. I even mentioned the idea of starting a charter school to my colleagues from the writing project when I saw a few of them this week. The fact that I can sit and talk and imagine with all of these dear ones is a gift.

Each day is a gift: each day that I can get up early, walk on my own legs to my desk, brew some coffee to fuel my way through the wee hours of reading and writing, pull on weather-appropriate clothing to go out in the air and walk, breathing in and breathing out. The sights and sounds and smells of nature are gifts which also fill me with amazement almost constantly. Even now, in the depth of cold, dark winter, I find much beauty to sustain me. These gifts surprise me again every morning.

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