You may protest my title, as summer isn’t officially over until mid-September, but for teachers and students August marks the beginning of a new season. As a student, I’m excited to get back into classes and a routine.
And yes, this year I’ll also be a teacher. I’m thrilled to be teaching upper school English at The Covenant Preparatory School while I finish my masters. I’ll be teaching in the morning, studying in the afternoon, and going to night class once or twice a week.
Though I couldn’t be more excited to get back into the classroom, August feels like one long Sunday night—it’s a season marked with apprehension and planning and making sure everything is in order. Bring on the syllabus-making, the book ordering, the stress dreams…get ready to meet new students, new colleagues, a new classroom.
The easiest way to compensate the nervousness is to overwork. I’ve stayed up until 2am before organizing notebooks and lesson planning. I’ve spent 12 hours straight in a classroom hanging posters and boxing up old books. And though August will bring some long work days with it, my desire to control every details reveals a lack of trust.
A few months ago, Will and I started a new project on the back porch of our apartment. It may look like a science project gone awry, but it’s a hydroponic plant grower. When we first picked out the small vegetable plants, I don’t think either of us really believed we’d harvest a couple of jalapeños, a tomato, and a banana pepper in two months time. Though there were some difficulties in the beginning, and Will had to recalculate the water mixture, most of our time has been spent waiting and hoping.
This is how I’d like to think of my new teaching assignment this August—as a garden. What needs my care? What will just take time? Where might I need to make adjustments? When will I realize that I can’t control the growth of another living thing?
In Wendell Berry’s poetry (which inspired these posts in the first place), he reminds workers that
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
My job as a teacher (and often as a graduate student as well) is not about measured outcomes and production—it is about the faithfulness of tending a garden even when I don’t have complete control.
So if you’re a teacher, or someone whose August is stress-filled, don’t let this be a month dictated by work alone. We must remember to maintain moments of rest, to let August be a time of tending gardens and leaving it to grace.
Rest is not death; it is life, and all life bears fruit.
-A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life