While Andrew Barron and I were discussing the vision and purpose of Avenida Book’s second in the Keeping the Faith series, I kept coming back to February. I wanted to put this book out into the world the help teachers get out of bed in February. It’s a tough month for teachers. It’s also a tough month for students. It’s cold and dark. Teachers and students have long forgotten winter break, but cannot yet see the hope of spring break which is to come. Standardized tests loom ominously. It is, by far, the hardest month of the school year despite being mercifully shorter than the rest.
For a few years, my classroom didn’t have any outside walls. I also coached a winter sport. So I entered the school building around 7am when it was pitch black and exited around 6pm in the same sheer darkness. By February, it had been months since I had seen the sun on a weekday with nothing but a cold March to look toward. Cowering into my scarf-wrapped winter coat, and shoving my shoulders closer to my ears, it had been months since I had even dared to look up at the sky. My students were just as busy and cold. We were all fighting seasonal depression together in one way or another. We had to dig harder for creativity and work harder to be patient and kind with each other. But there is no staying in bed and heading into work late. There is no hibernating inside of yourself for an afternoon. The bells keep ringing. Kids show up, period after period, looking to you for guidance, looking to you to have a plan for their learning. One of the rules our faculty jokes about is never, under any circumstances, make any major life decisions in February. Simply surviving February is victory enough.
The teachers who submitted to Keeping the Faith in Education write with a realistic courage about the joys and challenges of teaching. It is not fireworks and dancing bears, but real messy moments of learning that invite us to refocus in February. Zach’s story of Antanacio, Danielle’s Sam and Sarah’s Albert gently nudge us to remember the thawing, transformational power of connecting to a student in a moment of vulnerable human learning. Heather’s belief in little resurrection and Stacie’s belief in herself invite me to take a deep breath and re-commit. My humblest of hopes for this book was that teachers could remind each other that, seemingly against all odds, the sun will come out again. February is not the end of the story.