Saturday, February 26, 2011
The Tyranny of the Calendar
Before the start of every school year, I drive to the office supply store for my most important purchase: a large desktop (that’s a literal desktop) calendar/blotter, each sheet printed with one month. The DAY squares are 3” x 3”. This becomes my Lesson Plan Book, School Activity Sheet and Personal Organizer. Since I prepare for and teach, 2 different courses, I draw horizontal slash marks across the 5 weekday boxes and then fill in what I plan to cover in each class, page numbers, assignments, supplementary material, and etc. This helps me visualize where I need to go; as a veteran teacher, I’m better at planning how long certain lessons will take so although I can scribble or erase, I rarely need to do that. I also write in appointments, in and out of school. Nothing too pressing – dentist, hair, that sort of thing. Sometimes “Call (parent name)” with a phone number. In the margins, I jot notes like a student name and class period: somebody needs a make-up assignment and I can run it to him during my preparation period. This kind of visual record helps me stay on track. It frees me to go ahead, teach my classes and manage my life, uncluttered. The clutter appears on that calendar. When it’s time to tear off a month, the page is usually filled with scribbles, arrows, phone numbers, and coffee cup circles. The ritual removal usually reveals up a new, fresh, clean month. Not this time, however. When February becomes March, 2011, much is already filled in. Spring Break happens at the end of March and with it, a l-o-n-g vacation. It’s better to cover more difficult lessons before that break. Also, as I’m pacing for the end of the semester, I want to land in the 1920’s in my chronological study of American Literature. By April 1, we will be at the end of that decade, with our study of The Great Gatsby. The grading period ends March 11. I had planned for my English 11 scholars to spend two full weeks on Of Mice and Men. That snow day last Friday messed with that plan. I’ll have to see if I can tweak the lessons or just move them into the next term. It won’t matter to anybody but me. When the weather closes the schools, then it’s time to be flexible. “Flexibility is your friend,” I tell all student teachers. And I try to practice what I preach. When I took a leave of absence in spring 2009, I found it useful to replicate that desk blotter at home. We had many appointments, meetings, and so forth to keep on track. I found a smaller version of that one I use at school. It had begun with January 2009 so there were, I was led to believe, enough months left for what we would need. I smiled at the end of December when I went back into the office supply store to purchase one for 2010. And again 2011. Mike has filled in many squares with HIS stuff, including a few malingering court appearances, lunch dates, birthdays, and doctor’s appointments. Last week, we crossed off the final legal obligation. Also, a rather large dispute with the IDEM concluded itself. Nice and tidy, our lives. That snow day on Friday, 2/25, was a special gift from God to me. Mike had an appointment with his doctor and as I was supposed to be in school as “Bolingers go to work,” he would be seeing his oncologist and then reporting back to me at 3:00. Except it snowed. Quite a bit. Over ice. And the wise men closed the schools. So I got to attend the meeting after all. Mike has developed quite the relationship with Dr. Moore -- oh wait, it’s Annette -- over the last two years. There’s a routine –- vitals, oxygen level, questions, from the nurse – that they danced through effortlessly. Then, Dr. Moore joined us. During the next minutes, I sat apart as the doctor and her friend discussed his case. There was hand holding, hugs, pats, and tears. So here it is. She agrees with the Indianapolis doctor, that Mike’s cancer has returned. It remains microscopic and so cannot be detected on a scan, but it IS the cause of the pressure on his binary tract. Unlike the doctor who did the ERCP (“This is what we expect”), Mike’s oncologist was sincerely saddened. “We are so sorry. We were so pleased that you were in remission.” So Mike said, straight away, “Well, what do we do?” And Dr. Moore began her laborious lesson on treatment. We have choices. That includes doing nothing. However, “It’s so much more effective to go after this while it’s small. It’s much harder when it has grown.” Mike said that he made up his mind right away. We will begin treatment –- chemo –- next week. He will drive to the oncology center for his 8:00 AM appointment. He will laze back in a soft leather chair and for 3 hours, a sweet-faced nurse will send poison into his body. This poison will target fast-dividing cells, like cancer cells. It will also damage healthy cells. We talked about this, about side effects, about medicines that will help, about the length of treatment. Mike’s regime is ‘Day 1, Day 8, and then off a week.’ Then we begin again. Right now, we will covet your prayers as we start down this new path. We are anxious, nervous, scared, hopeful -- all sorts of mixed up emotions. God has shown Himself as our loving father. We rest in His arms. We don’t many ask questions. We are trusting Him. And, we’ll keep you posted, our friends.