April, the Tender Month

By the end of Great Compline this evening, I was completely exhausted from getting angry with myself for continually failing to pay attention. As I closed up the books and put them away, wondering whether any of that hour of prayer had actually entered my heart, I threw a smile and what I thought was a goodbye nod to Margaret, but she held my gaze steadily for a full ten seconds before asking softly, "How is school going?"

She knows me well already, this new friend. And she knows teaching. I can't end this conversation with a simple "Great!" So I exhale slowly, pause, and say, "It's that mid-April slump."

She nods. She has been there.

"There's nothing really wrong," I say, thinking of all the crises that could be happening, but aren't. And then I think of all the learning that also could be happening, but isn't. My last period class today: three on a field trip, five watching every tick on the clock for  early sports dismissals. It was almost funny how, for the last twenty minutes, I actually tried to get the remaining six students to analyze the effect Mark Twain's personal correspondence had on the experience of reading his novel. Almost. But not quite.

"Well," says Margaret. "I'm going to pray that you find a way to get through to them, to wake them up enough to learn. April is -- "

" -- the cruelest month," I finish wryly.

" -- a tender month," she corrects me, her mouth smiling at the reference but her eyes full of sincerity and hope. "You will find just one little thing -- one tiny, inconsequential thing -- to do differently. Something that comes to you while you sleep, something simple, easy, but that makes them see everything in a different way, that opens them up to the experience of learning. I will pray for that, for you."

My eyes well with tears at this unexpected kindness. "Thank you."

She smiles. "Glory to God."