By Kat Kiefer-Newman
Spring seems to finally be here. I know because over on my Facebook page people have been posting for a couple of weeks now warmer temperatures, pictures of their gardens bursting with color, and recipes for homemade peeps.
Breaks come and go.
I work at two schools so my breaks don’t usually line up. Except for the chance to play catch-up with any grading, I barely notice. But like my Facebook friends, the season change is something I’m keenly aware of this year. Across the country the temperatures have been crazy-cold. Maybe that’s the difference. Or maybe it’s the weird economy. Or maybe it’s just that Spring makes us all a little nutty.
As my students rush, stumble, and meander out the door just before the break I always ask how they plan to spend their break. In years past, I would be regaled with plans of parties at the beach, family vacations to both local and exotic places, and other elaborate schemes. Students wanted to pack as much fun as possible into the one or two weeks they had of freedom.
This year, though, I’ve been met with stories of extra jobs or job hunting. One student told me that he’s babysitting his sister’s three kids, his cousin’s two kids, and his younger brother to help his parents and pay them back for their support of him.
Another student told me she’s working at her brother’s construction company over the break, because he had to lay off all of his staff. Still another student just doubled her shifts at a major retailer (she needs to help her parents make the house payment).
Times are grim. Despite the heaviness in the collective air, though, I’ve also been hearing of plans to volunteer at the animal shelter, work at a soup kitchen, work at the local community garden, Earth Day tree plantings and ground clean ups, and more. It seems that when people are down, when people are at their lowest point, yes they focus more on themselves. But they also look to the community around them to see if they can help someone else in need, someone whose need is maybe (at least in the moment) greater.
My students encourage me with their charity and good will.
As I spend my second break next week grading essays about a variety of subjects I’ll be warmed by the good deeds and acts of caring I’ve been hearing about; even if the weather turns cold again, I’ll be warm.
About the Juggler: Kat Kiefer-Newman currently teaches as an adjunct instructor at two colleges in two different departments. In addition to her busy working (and driving) schedule she attends conferences presenting her research, is in the last stages of finishing her Ph.D., takes care of her elderly father, has recently packed up and sent off to college her second daughter, chats in status updates with her students on Facebook, does not hand out her cell phone number to said students despite their pleadings, and in her spare time she plays in her organic veggie garden. (And though she will never admit it, she also enjoys reading trashy vampire novels.)