What Say You In June, Teachers?

From a letter Sylvia Plath wrote to her brother:

and I am to sacrifice my energy, writing and versatile intellectual life for grubbing over 66 Hawthorne papers a week and trying to be articulate in front of a rough class of spoiled bitches…

(qtd in Stevenson).

Any artist knows exactly how Plath feels, especially if she is a beginning teacher. The first three to five years are the worst, especially in high school teaching.

When I began teaching English composition at the university level, it took five semesters before I stopped feeling nervous before each class, and even still the classroom gives me anxiety dreams. But teach I must if I want to earn at least some money!

I went into teaching after receiving a Master’s in Spanish with the hopes of writing poetry and short stories in the afternoons, but obviously that didn’t happen. I was too busy grading and planning to even think about any kind of writing besides in my journal.

And I did not have Plath’s genius nor her frenetic, passionate drive to succeed. I settled into conformity and set my sights on having babies. The down side is that it took me almost 15 years to get back to writing. But here I am, my children in college, and I’m shaping up a manuscript of poems.

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Sketch of Benidorm, Spain by Sylvia Plath, where Plath honeymooned with Ted Hughes. Photographed from illustrations in Bitter Fame by Anne Stevenson.