Back to School Commandments

Monday, August 15, 2016

sylvia plath
In my classroom is a quote board and I don't care how cliche it may be for an English teacher to have one. The first quote I post each year is by author and poet Sylvia Plath: "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am."
Not far from the quote board is a portrait of Plath. When seated at my desk poring over lesson plans and pitiful thesis statements, I glance across the room and look into her eyes. They seem to say to me, "Keep going."
While a student at Smith College, Plath once wrote herself a list of Back to School Commandments, beginning with three rules on how to behave around her new beau.
Image via OpenCulture
Image via OpenCulture
Inspired, I decided to pen commandments of my own for my love and my labor.

1. I will not overwhelm him with panic, stress, and worry.
2. I will not throw temper tantrums when he simply asks me to sort through my mail and receipts.
3. I will kiss him and adore him as if he were my high school crush.
Back to School Commandments
1. Keep a CALM FRONT always.
2. Research papers -- don't get upset. Every year you're convinced they'll be the death of you. Every year you survive.
3. Report cards -- Resist the urge to panic no matter how many tests, essays, and journal assignments you have to grade at the end of the quarter.
4. DO NOT STOP WRITING. You must practice what you teach.
5. Say "Good morning" to every one, every day, even when the morning is anything but good.
6. Write down everything. Clean your desk. Vacuum your rug. Wash your mug. Throw away dry erase markers that no longer work.
7. Do not skip workouts to grade papers. Your job is not worth your health no matter how noble your profession may be.
8. Stop staying up late. Teaching teenagers is no excuse for adopting their sleeping habits.
9. Remember 10 months is not an eternity. 9 weeks is not an eternity. Even if it looks that way now.
10. Make sure you're always having fun -- even when you're teaching Puritan lit or MLA. If you're bored your students will be, too.
P.S. - Remember -- your class will teach your students more about life than literature and that's exactly the way it should be.
Previously published at 


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