Spark | Mark’s Remarks

marksFor years, I griped about small talk. Every year, I would cringe when people would ask me the same old questions. “Are you ready for school to start? How was your summer?” and on and on it goes. I should be ashamed of myself for being aggravated. My grumpy self says, “Who cares if I’m ready or not? It’s going to happen.”

All teachers are a little upset when the summer draws to a close. It’s just like any other change. Yes, you will miss sleeping a little later and being able to think about other things other than grading, planning, and the like.

I won’t go into those “long summers off.” If the general public followed us around long enough, they would see why summer vacation is vital. Plus, they’d also see how much school prep teachers do over the summer. Heck, sometimes our summers are busier than our school year. Well, in a way.

Something happened to me over the summer. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s middle age. Perhaps it’s being fed up with the state of this world, people, education and the like. I don’t know what it is, really.

I have always thought that the students were the most important part of teaching. I never lost that. However, this summer, I started to really focus on that particular fact; my students are the most important thing about my job.

As I prepared my classroom and my plans for the first week, I found myself cutting corners and getting rid of some old habits. I asked myself, “How important is that to the kids? What academic value does that have?” So much of what I’ve done in the past has been fluff and many times, I was just doing certain things to make myself look good. Yuck.

I have to say that this school year is starting off on a much calmer note than last year. Yes, I am ready.

A dear lady asked me the other day if I ever have lost my “spark.” I knew what she meant. She had known me as a younger teacher. She wondered if I was still as silly and immature as I was back then (I’m guessing). Actually, she just wanted to know if I ever start the school year off with just a “ho-hum” attitude.

I guess there have been moments like that at times. At times, we are so bogged down with other things that take us from our focus that we find ourselves just going through the motions. Yes, ho hum.

But back to that spark. I would have to say that it’s there every year about this time. That excitement. What will my class be like? What challenges face us? What fun will we have? What surprises are in store?

Yes, the spark.

Thankfully, it always comes back.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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