May, in Check[s]

May feels like one giant checklist.  I find greater empathy for parents of young children at this time of year than at any other: several times a night I awaken in terror, sure I have forgotten to do something important.  Buy a birthday gift?  Make up a church bulletin?  Hand back the graded quizzes?  Plan a meeting, a conference call, a file transfer or a wedding shower?  I toss and turn, longing for sleep but dreading the alternative more.

Today I sent the final draft of the literary magazine to the printer (and then e-mailing him frantically several hours later with one more change).  Check.  I honestly didn’t think I could do it without a class; usually I have a dozen or so students whom I can threaten with bad grades if they don’t pull their weight promoting, selecting, designing and editing.  This year I allowed myself more participation than usual, rationalizing that I simply couldn’t take the time to work individually with each student on each layout and still have it finished by the deadline.  I was pleased with the outcome, all the more so because of my rock-bottom expectations; there were a handful who really wanted to be involved and were willing to come after and before school to help me.  God bless them.

One exam is written and will be given on Wednesday to the departing seniors – check – another will be given when school officially ends at the close of the month.  (In an admittedly brilliant move, I successfully petitioned for my SAT students to be exempt if they take the June SAT.)  I admire my high school teachers for handing out carefully-prepared review sheets, but I generally ask the students to make up their own, and in our discussion I make mental notes about what they have learned and where the remaining holes are.  I know I’ve written a good essay question when I look forward to reading their answers.

After a series of increasingly frank conversations with the music teacher, it became apparent that I was, in fact, in charge of the faculty choir, which will perform at Baccalaureate Mass.  This instigated a panic moment about a week ago, but in a marvelous coincidence (or maybe not) I happened to speak to one of the premier music directors of our Archdiocese last week, and he pointed me to a perfect piece.  I carefully juggled sixteen schedules to plan rehearsals, which start tomorrow.  Check.

My most exhausting, most rewarding trip ever will be repeated in a few weeks: fifteen students in Paris for ten days.  Our pre-trip meetings are underway.  I enjoy their questions: will French shopkeepers accept returns?  How can you decipher "raw" on a menu?  Is it true that they all wear black and smoke?  Listen, I tell them.  Your world is about to expand -- exponentially.  You will love the kir and the scarves so much you'll wonder how you ever got along without them.  Relax and enjoy the ride.

My garden is growing.  Just looking at it makes me happy, and picking a radish or a lettuce leaf makes me happier.  Miraculously, the berry bushes I neglected (to the point of mowing over) are lush and leafy.  The tomatoes downstairs are growing slowly, but steadily.  I’m hardening them off this week and will plant them next weekend.  And somehow, that doesn't feel like it's on the checklist at all.