The Unbearable Lightness of Shoveling
Slowly and sleepily, I roll over. Using the gentle light of my iPhone, I check the time– “It’s 5:47 a.m.,” the phone seems to say with a long face.
Nope, no delay is coming. Too late. The call would’ve come by now. But it snowed… didn’t it? Sigh. Okay, time to suit up, I think to myself.
Now downstairs in the entryway, I pull on my old gray ski bib, tattered scarf, Job Lot gloves, my grandfather’s old coat, and the rubber snow boots my mother bought me three years ago. No sound in the house but the swish of my loyal nylon. Time to shovel.
Quietly, I make my way through the back door and out to the garage. Looking around for the shovel, winter air whispers to me, coldly in my ears: “I’m still here,” it says. “I’m not going anywhere.” I punch the Genie garage door opener, and, as the door noisily rises, I wonder how deep the snow will be on the other side?
As the pale light of the morning illuminates the driveway, I see that less than an inch of snow has fallen. And it suddenly occurs to me: no two snowfalls are ever alike. A few weeks ago, the snow, although not deep, had been laminated in thick, crunchy ice. And the time before that, several inches of wet, heavy stuff had been dumped, piling up high. Today, a light powdered sugar coats the driveway. All of the snowfalls, so different. All of them.
Sometimes shoveling snow requires great effort– enormous amounts of muscle, time, and effort, effort that wears me out. Really “putting my back into it” is required. Other times, though, this task requires different muscles, different techniques, less time. Sometimes it falls in between.
Shoveling that morning, I am reminded of what it’s like working with students. Like snowfalls, no two are alike. To help kids grow as writers and readers, some require more effort, more time. Some require different methods, approaches, levels of patience and exertion. Still others progress more quickly, and teaching them can feel a little like pushing powdered sugar off the driveway.
I wonder if all of us who teach realize this? I think to myself. We must…right?
Bending down with my shovel, I thank the snow for these thoughts.