Friday, September 10, 2010

Ode to Autumn

It’s lovely September again, sunlit but poignant. Golden light bathes us by day and yet the sun has slipped down the sky: autumn and then winter lurk just round the corner, sickles at the ready. Those of us in our seventh decade (yes, look at that half-empty glass) are aware that if we’re still in the September of our lives, it’s the 30th. If not the 31st… or 32nd…

The poignancy is intensified for us teachers. Yes, I know we had six weeks of glorious holiday and you don’t really feel sorry for us. But six weeks is enough to slow down our pace of life. We do the whole crossword (well, with a bit of help from Mr Life). We sit in the sun while we drink our coffee. We see friends. And then – back to work. It’s like letting a prisoner out for the weekend and, just as he’s started to relax, clamping the chains round his ankles once more.

So here I am again, trying to attach 200 names to 200 faces in a couple of weeks (lots of Kimberlys, Kimberleys and Kymberlys this year).

Not that I’m exactly complaining. Work is work and one can’t reasonably expect to get paid simply for having fun. I’m lucky to enjoy my job well enough. But outside, September glows.

The tender plants which got such a shock when first left out on chilly May evenings have long ago toughened up and are swaggering now, exploding with colour and fizzing with blossoms. Begonias, busy Lizzies, fuchsias – the days are still long enough to encourage flowering. The plants don't suspect that slowly, slowly, the darkness is encroaching on the evenings and that one day in the not-too-distant future, frost will cut them down. Much like me.

I’m so tired! The first couple of weeks with of students pass in a whirl of smiling, photocopying, listening to problems, making up lessons, rushing to classes, fetching extra chairs to seat the extra students. I’m spending my evenings either making up schedules on my computer, or at my kitchen table, marking the same mistakes as I’ve been correcting every year since 1973. The youngest pupils I taught in my first year as a schoolteacher will now be forty-seven and they probably still get their apostrophes wrong.

Ah well, it’s the weekend. As long as I spend it most of it working, I might be ready when Monday morning rolls round again. And so the world keeps turning and, improbably to me, the cherry trees burst into bloom in Australia and New Zealand.


  1. It's true.

    The street trees are in blossom. Spring's here!

  2. Yes, you are right. The first cherry blossom is just showing. Enjoy your year. Some of what you teach must rub off onto students, but alas I know what you mean about the apostrophes. ( Some of them just don't get it. )

  3. I'm thinking your students remember a lot more than you think about their apostrophes. Isn't it sad that we must spend these beautiful autumn days chained to a desk or classroom?

    I'm a little concerned about your statement "one can’t reasonably expect to get paid simply for having fun". I think after this many years, it's an entirely reasonable expectation. Therefore, I must beg to differ. ;-)

  4. The Kymberlys seem to pose a particular sort of challenge - but I realise this is very judgemental on my part!
    Hope there is some fun in the new term.

  5. Did you ever see Victoria Wood talking about her friend Kimberley? I was trying to find you a Youtube link. She was wonderful.

  6. Anonymous11:43 am

    I hope the new term goes well!

  7. I sat in my friend's allotment the other day, in hot sunshine, and remarked how September was the loveliest month of all - and he (about to return to his university professorial life) said, a trifle wistfully, "It is, if you aren't surrounded by hundreds of teenagers....".

    So I feel for you. Maybe a career move - to adult education?

  8. Sunset at 7.42pm tonight apparently. Won't be long until we are going to work in the dark and coming home again in the dark. Remind me why we live in Scotland again?

  9. I feel your pain. This morning, after the first week's teaching, I woke at 7, yet felt I still needed a good few hours' more. And I have four Sophies in one class. I was tempted to put them all in a row, so at least I'd have a good chance of getting one name right if I looked in that direction, but I thought that was just a cop-out in the end!

  10. Such a beautiful, bittersweet post with so many thoughts that I share. Do stop the treadmill when you are able. I know that many people zip around energetically once they are retired, but I am not one of them, and not by choice. I love life and am never bored, but it's always a struggle between the spirit which is willing and the body which is old and tired.

  11. There are freesias in my garden and yes, my cherry tree is in bloom. It rains and rains here, thank goodness.

    Do you ever bump into any of those 40 year old ex-pupils?