When I was younger, I was cast as the kid Tom Sawyer hoodwinks into whitewashing a picket fence in a stage version of Twain's classic novel. It was a small part, and I'm pretty sure I had to wear overalls (not a good look for me), but playing the good-natured fool was pleasant enough. Why does this memory arise now, more than ten years later? Because yesterday, I spent three hours whitewashing our school's chicken coop, by myself, juvenile hooligans nowhere to be found. It was actually supremely pleasant working in the sunshine, despite how ill prepared I seemed to be, painting a whole gallon of primer with a two-inch wide brush. But it seems to be a fitting metaphor as our school year draws to a close.
See, what I've discovered in the months since my last blog post (sorry) is that the most fulfilling work I've done here is the behind-the-scenes, thankless work. Hear me out on this one. Our year has been tumultuous at best, but somehow we've managed to find ourselves ten days out, overwhelmed and exhausted but bolstered by high hopes for next year. Optimism for the big projects to come is tempered with the hesitant cynicism that has overtaken the glass-half-full worldview I'm used to. But doing what I can do, what needs to be done, knowing that the coat of white paint I've applied will become a blank canvas for next week or next year - and that the white won't show through after the project is complete - that gives me a sense of accomplishment that is a combination of the satisfaction of an afternoon's work and the pride I feel having dedicated my time and energy to this place for the small amount of time I've been here.
"I guess I'll do what I can," a student said to me while working on a project yesterday afternoon. Yes. Yes, I said. Always do what you can.