"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin." Luke 12:27
Eckart Tolle, a spiritual teacher whom I follow, quotes the above verse from the Bible. Tolle uses this verse to remind us that nature continues to do its thing even if we don't meet deadlines or if we have an argument with a friend. The flowers bloom in the spring even if we are quarantined. The world keeps spinning. I use this verse as a mantra when my grades are due. Four times a year, I have a complete meltdown. I have to grade literally thousands of papers and record the grades by a certain date and time and it's always, as reliable as the rotations of the planet, a frenzy of anxiety and self-doubt. I hate this aspect of my job. There is nothing natural about judging high school kids' efforts to become better writers or readers. I second guess the fairness of every mark I make on every paper. Is this comment going to help this student? Is this grade fair given my instruction? Michael, my husband, actually marks the end of the marking periods on his calendar so that he knows when I will turn into a sobbing ball of stress.
It's the end of Teacher Appreciation Week and the person I will thank today is no longer a teacher in the traditional sense, but she has taught me (or at least has attempted to teach me) how to not "toil or spin" as I tackle the more difficult aspects of my job. As you may know or have read, my husband had brain surgery two weeks after my second daughter, Emerson, was born. We found out about his tumor on 3/23 and Emmy was born on 3/27. Grades were due the first week of April. I tried to continue grading when Emmy was a week old, but it was becoming clear that Michael was going to need surgery. Oh, and Zoe turned 2 on April 2nd. One night, as my mom held my newborn and Michael was admitted to Cooper Hospital, I texted my boss, Marcie Geyer.
I basically told her, I give up. I will never forget the speed at which she texted back that everything would be handled. Her next text was full of concern for my family's well-being. We were texting so I couldn't see her face, but I can imagine that she was the perfect combination of calm and concerned that she always is.
And here we are again. The pandemic started. The school closed on 3/16. Remote learning started on 3/17. I was diagnosed with cancer on 3/23. I called Marcie and she did not toil nor spin. If there was any stress or chaos as Marcie finished my grading of over 100 argument essays, she made sure to keep me from worrying. She called or texted only to check on my health, both mental and physical. I thought it appropriate that I received a card from her for Teacher Appreciation Week which contained a packet of wild flower seeds. Wild flowers are not one thing and yet they grow regardless of the many human issues buzzing around them. Marcie is a mom, a wife, a confidant, a friend, and...a boss, in the best sense of the word. I often say of Marcie (whom I call Ms. Geyer out of nothing more than respect for a job superior because I swear she never ages) that she never mails it in. Even if we have an impromptu department meeting, Marcie comes prepared with a slideshow, snacks, and an empathetic ear. When I suddenly took a leave of absence from school on April 1st, she was the first person I called. I called her before my family. And I'm glad. She steadied me before I had to break the news to my mom and sisters. She is as reliable as the change of seasons and I am proud to work for her.
Thank you for being the calm in the storm, Ms. Geyer. (I'm sure the rest of the department will piggyback on my sentiments.)