The cycle of a student or a teacher is a tough one to break. There is the excitement of the new term with new classes and books. There are new faces and routines. This time there will not be any grammar errors in my syllabi, or the teacher will not be super mean but rather fun and interesting.
Unfortunately, I find myself at the end of that cycle right in the middle of Advent. It seems unfair. Someone needs to move Christmas to September or maybe February. It is hard to look at the faces of the shining kids, decked out in their best shirt or dress, and not to interrupt them in their "pitchy" rendition of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear".
I do not want to be the Grinch, but at the end of term, that is what I am. All the potential has been spent, and it is the end of the line. I must become the Dream-Crusher. I know that it is an oversimplification. My students get what they earned.
So, it is hard to not run up the aisle and say, "Stop! Stop being so hopeful. most of you will struggle your entire lives. Yes, toys are fun, but you will grow up and lose the excitement and curiosity (or have it tested or drugged out of you). You will become bored and sad."
But then that frustration and inclination relies on a misunderstanding. Unlike what I hear on the radio and TV, and often from a variety of pulpits, my faith is not a matter of making everything ok, at least not yet. The promise of the Messiah includes with the "Joy to the World" and "Gloooorrrrria"'s a promise of the suffering and victory of Good Friday and Easter.
So, just as my terms carry with them a certain amount of sadness, nativity scenes always carry a good deal of grief in my heart as well. I used to drive by a church with a Nativity creche right in front of the building, and right behind that small, plastic baby Jesus, with his entourage, was a looking cross the size of a building.
While I can find joy and excitement at the promise of the season, the reality of the life ahead of that small baby humbles me nearly to tears. Within the cries for food and warmth at his beginning on earth were the tears of "Jesus wept.". Those small hands and feet would be pierce with nails and left to hang as he struggled for breath on the cross. Those eyes, still bleary from birth, would greet Mary in the Garden on the morning of his resurrection and be surprised that she did not know him.
That is real potential, and I wish that I could give my students just a small fraction of that.
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Stephen Swanson teaches as an assistant professor of English at McLennan Community College. Aside from guiding students through the pitfalls of college writing and literature, he spends most of his time trying to remain aware of popular culture, cooking, and enjoying time with his wife and son. He holds degrees in Communications (Calvin College), Film Studies (Central Michigan University), and Media and American Culture Studies (Bowling Green State University. In addition to editing a collection, Battleground States: Scholarship in Contemporary America, he has forthcoming projects on Johnny Cash and depiction of ethics in detective narratives.