Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Lassie Feeling

My sister's friend at work gave the name "The Lassie Feeling" to a gut feeling that can't be described adequately, but you know it when you read about it or hear it explained if you've ever felt it.

Time warp back to the 60's when Lassie, the series, was on TV on Sunday evenings. If you were a kid, like I was then at a time when getting into trouble at school wasn't a laughing matter and was something that most parents took seriously, you might remember that particular feeling of dread that hit you in the stomach every Sunday evening when you realized that the following morning you'd be back in your classroom. The more you thought about it (during the commercials during Lassie) the more you were certain that you were forgetting some assignment, maybe even a huge project, that would be due the next morning when you'd get to school. It might be just your standard Spelling homework or something of immense magnitude like a fort you were supposed to build out of toothpicks or that crown you were supposed to make for the statue of the Virgin Mary because it was your turn to make and place the crown on her head on Monday. And the more certain you became that you were forgetting something important, the worse that panic in your intestines would grip you as you frantically sought to remember something - anything that would clue you in as to what it was that you were forgetting that would incur the disappointment or worse of your teacher. It must have been akin to what somebody feels on the night before his scheduled execution. Reaching for the phone and calling a classmate wasn't really an option. We didn't use the phone back then. The adults did, and usually in whispered tones. Anyway, if you're sitting there reading this paragraph and thinking, "Oh my! I know exactly what he's writing about!" congratulations. You now know the name of that peculiar emotional phenomenon. It's The Lassie Feeling!

Enjoying the last of Summer's delicious freedom.

And now, for what Paul Harvey would call, "The rest of the story..." Teachers get The Lassie Feeling too just as certainly and just as strongly as their students do. It's not the same feeling, necessarily, of forgetting something important. It seems to be a throwback, almost like a survival mechanism from childhood, that nails those of us who occupy the other side of the big desk with that same "Whoomp!" to the gut when we're heading back to the classroom on any Monday morning, after a holiday break, and especially now, as the beginning of a new school year approaches.

When one looks at the new school calendar and realizes all that must be accomplished in the next 40 weeks, the tasks seem nearly overwhelmingly impossible. One-hundred eighty days. Six class periods per day. Over 1,000 separate lessons to plan, to teach, to evaluate. An average of 25 pupils per class. Ten or more tests per quarter, per subject. Over 6,000 numbers to crunch before June rolls around again. Yes, that Lassie Feeling grips us all when we think ahead, and in academia, on either side of the big desk, nobody succeeds without thinking ahead, planning responsibly, and taking seriously one's obligations.

It helps that I love my job - that after 25 years of being in front of the classroom I still get there each morning whistling, humming, or singing in my eagerness to start another day. I suppose I should worry if The Lassie Feeling ever disappears, for if it does it'll be time for me to move on, to retire, to find something else to do because if I lose it, it will mean that I don't care any more, and that...

That would be far worse than remembering on Monday morning that I forgot all about that big Civil War diorama project that was supposed to be made out of Marshmallow Peeps.


John McClane said...

Chuck it in. Give it up. You'll miss them. They won't miss you.

Joe said...

You're right, for the most part, John, but every now and then I get one of those letters from somebody who sat in my class years ago that makes all the difference. Or I run into the cop who was one of my kids in my rookie year who still can't call me by my first name out of respect, or I go to get my haircut by the girl who was that same guy's girlfriend all those years ago and she reminds me of something I said back then that she still remembers. I'll never be rich, but I can't imagine doing anything else for a living and still liking it as much as I do.