Last Days of Summer (?)
Here I sit surrounded by sweetpeas with a cup of chai and a brilliant sun reflecting off the fjord and mountains. It is Tuesday, already less than a week until I have to be at school for my first meetings. Two weeks from yesterday the students will be in their places and we’ll be on our way to finishing the semester which this year, as an historic first, will finish before Christmas.
I am having that August-syndrome that teachers get. Not quite the dread I had those years when it all seemed so overwhelming; certainly not the nightmares of my early teaching years when in dreams I wandered desperately down corridors land into classrooms where I had to teach subjects I didn’t know anything about. That dream-school (it was always the same building of a navy blue character with principals and offices that were disproportionately large) put me into a permanent state feeling confused, frustrated, frightened and incompetent.
No, I’m not even having the resentment I suffered from a few years back when I turned to meditative writing to clear my head and had to laugh out loud when one of the lines said, “They ought to PAY you for doing that!” Of course they do pay me, and well at that.
When I started teaching here in 2001 I took what amounted to a sizeable reduction in salary. In Wisconsin I would have finally reached about $50,000 per year right about the time I decided that the job and way of life was a pair of golden handcuffs I had to break free from. In Norway, even though I was teaching at a higher level than I had been doing in the States, the salaries were lower and I was earning about $30,000. An interesting fact when one considers the cost of living being a fair amount higher. But what appears to be a higher cost of living is basically higher prices on fruits and vegetables and meat. One of the first things I learned frrom my sister-in-law Nina back in 2001 was to not look at the price tag on healthy food. We live in the arctic and can’t expect to have local farm-grown prices like we had in Wisconsin.
Considering the other benefits we have here in terms of no-cost health care, 5-week paid vacations, tuition-free eduction, a 50% tax-reduction at Christmas and 12% tax return in June to use on summer holidays, the cost of living isn’t so outrageous. What gets left out is all the weekend consumer shopping that my French class students back in Wisconsin told me was a viable hobby. That’s okay, stores are closed on Sunday anyway. Despite some efforts to introduce mega-shopping-malls to Norway, shopping remains more of an as-needed activity.
So what am I really getting at? I am reminding myself that there is a very fair exchange of energy for my work that starts next week. As I have written about in other blogs, I do get that money like everything else is a form of energy exchange. It is important to remember that as we teachers drag our feet back to work. We are not being sent to a 10-month labor camp. We are invited, given the privilege of being able to do what we love to do (i.e. basically spending the work day talking and learning about things that interest us).
As I sit here knowing that tomorrow it will rain and today might be the last bit of sun I will see for a while, as I notice that although it is still what one would call light outside at night we almost need to turn on lights inside, I choose to focus on this week as “the end” of something. Once school starts I still have my life at home with family, my writing, my house that sit in the middle of an abundance of flower beds. Going to school next week is just one other activity that I will be doing, among the ones I have been doing all along. There is no time lost, no too few days of vacation, there is no end … just a gradual merging over into the season ahead – autumn – which includes a gradual darkening of the world, and lots of time spent at school. That’s all. No nightmare. No confusion. And a fair return on the salary.
Here are some of the scenes that surround me at the moment: