Intelligent Discontent

Weeks of Doom, Years of Good Fortune: Teacher Talk


The posting has certainly been light here in the past few weeks as I go through an annual ritual called the Weeks of Doom with my AP Language and Literature students. Over a four week period, those 80 students each get the experience of writing 10 timed essays while I get the pleasure of commenting on and returning each handwritten essay—overnight. It’s an incredibly stressful time for both students and their harried teacher, who is slowly coming to realize that he might be getting a little too old to grade essays at 3:00 a.m., but it’s also excellent preparation for their AP exams and college, not to mention the profits of coffee producers in the local area.

During this time of year, teaching can occasionally feel like an incredible burden, and that’s even before I read today that it’s the “most overrated”career in the United States. Tensions are high, the paper load feels unmanageable, and sleep is fleeting.  And the constant attacks on the profession from a certain political persuasion certainly don’t help.

The past few weeks, though, have also provided reminders of just how lucky I am to be involved in public education, flawed and frustrating as parts of it may be. I’m not only seeing real growth in my students’ writing; I’m hearing from former students who are continuing to do amazing things. They are a reminder that I have the obligation to do everything I can to improve their education and that I have the privilege of proudly watching them as they achieve goals they probably couldn’t have imagined when they were 17 years old, counting the minutes until my class was over.

One, a teacher,  just had a beautiful baby girl; another just began a pilot for his own television show; a former debater is leading an incredibly professional statewide political campaign here in Montana. An incredibly talented musician is seeking funding to release her album while another is running for the state legislature here in Helena. Two have worked in health and education for the Peace Corps, while others are serving with the distinction in the armed forces.

For each of these successes that I’ve recently discovered, there are no doubt hundreds I haven’t yet heard about, but it’s a real pleasure to continue rooting for all of them. No temporary frustrations can ever diminish the good fortune I’ve had to be a small part of these amazing and evolving lives.

No sense of doom or exhaustion can ever diminish that.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a sixteen year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate. In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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