Joshua B. Guild,

       I missed my second consecutive day of work today. This is only the second time I have missed two days in a row since I began teaching at Banneker in 1996 (the other time was for a funeral). I needed the time to rest and regroup. But it is not easy to be away from my students for so long. There’s so much I feel that I have to share with them and so little time in which to share it. These kids do not have time to waste–something I have to remind them practically every day.
       Teaching is such an all-consuming profession. When I am away from school–be it in the evenings, over the weekend, or in the midst of a vacation–rarely an hour passes when one or more of my students don’t cross my mind. I replay a conversation I may have had with them, asking myself whether I was too harsh or not firm enough. I think about the dozens of parent phone calls I need to make. In the shower and when I am drifting off to sleep, I contemplate bulletin boards, unit plans, seating arrangements, and how to make my enthusiasm for American history theirs.
       I don’t want to romanticize my commitment to my sixth-graders. Actually, I am in a constant struggle to wrest my life away from my work. I feel like a very old 23. I am usually in bed shortly after 11 and up before the sun. I don’t even think about making plans for Friday night; I am quite content to come home to the NBA game of the week or the latest episode of Homicide and drift off to sleep before Letterman. Still, I am trying to fight the sluggish after-work impulses and make time for things in my personal life. I definitely make time for music; I’ve been called a CD addict (a charge that I resolutely deny). Lately, it’s Erykah Badu, Milt Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang Clan, and Sam Cooke. I listen to these and others on my way to and from work as a way to either focus my mind or become totally oblivious to the day, depending.
       Another part of my project of eking out some personal space apart from teaching is an effort to rededicate myself to reading. I have books strewn about my night table, many as new as the day I bought them, several others in various states of consumption. Novels, history books, a Native American folk-tale anthology, a book about attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Today I allowed myself the pleasure of getting lost in James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. It was the kind of quiet, reflective time I’ve learned to appreciate.