I'm here at school on Saturday, firing the kiln. This is a bisque firing - meaning the first firing of the clay objects. We have to bisque fire before we can glaze - and then we need a glaze firing, which I can do in a school day. But with a bisque firing, I like to put in everything, prop open the lid, leave the peep holes open, and fire just one element on low overnight. The next day (today), I turn the kiln up half a notch every half hour. Really. That slowly. But it prevents breakage.
Anyway, my students made things for holiday gifts. If I fire the greenware today, it can all be glazed on Monday or Tuesday, fired, and ready for students to take home Wednesday or Thursday. So that they'll have all their items finished. If I don't do the bisque firing today, well, things may not be finished in time for Christmas or Kwanzaa.
Okay, so the big question is why. Why am I at school on a Saturday, my Sabbath, as well as my day off.
Because I hate disappointing my students. I hate disappointing kids in general. But my students are MY kids this year - and some of them are my kids for two years. Even when they are no longer in my class, some of them are still my kids. And I don't want to be the adult they are disappointed with (or in?). They have rough lives - many live in single parent families or with a guardian other than a parent; many live below the poverty level, or in housing projects; most know someone or have a family member in jail, or on drugs, or who was murdered. By the time they hit age 21, possibly one quarter of my kids will be in jail or dead themselves. That's how it seems having worked here for 23 years.
So I do as much as I can for my kids, while they are mine. That's all parents can do, that's all teachers can do. Do as much as we can, while the kids are with us. And hope that by the time they move on, they know what they need to do to survive in our communities, and they know how to be productive.
That's why I'm here at school on Saturday, for something like 4 to 6 hours, until the kiln sitter cone melts and shuts off the kiln.
That's why I wanted to go down to the street fair last night in town, where my school's steel pan band was playing, where I ran into former and current students, where I got a lot of hugs from kids whose lives I've touched.
Because it reminds me why I'm a teacher. And it reminds me that I didn't disappoint my kids.