Prompt: I come into work one morning and the chalkboard in my classroom has a note on it that I didn’t write. I assume it’s from one of the teachers who shares the room, and I respond to the note on the board with my own note. The next morning I come in and there’s…
… another note.
The first note had said, “I can’t do this anymore,” to which I wrote, “Do what?” The new note said, “Teach,” which I erased before students began to enter the room.
“Who wrote it?” Tim asked me at lunch.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Four other teachers use the room.”
“Does one of them seem more unhappy than the others?” Tim asked.
“No,” I said. “They all seem equally unhappy.”
“Are you going to write a response?” Nancy–the third person at our four-person table–asked.
“Write,” Tim said, “that you agree with the other notes and then sign it, ‘Sisyphus.’”
“Was he the one on the ledge who kept having his liver eaten?” Joe asked. Joe was the only one of us who didn’t teach English, but he prided himself on familiarity with many fields.
“No,” Tim said, “that was Prometheus. Sisyphus was commanded to spend eternity rolling a rock up a hill and then having the rock roll back down to the bottom where he had to start all over.”
“A better comparison,” Joe said, “might be between teachers and lion tamers. Every day we are in an enclosed space with wild creatures who we keep at bay with grades instead of raw meat and detention hall instead of chairs and whips.”
“Except,” Tim said, “if the students don’t care about grades or punishments, then we’re lion tamers without any rewards or protection.”
Nancy, who had yet to begin eating her salad, said, “Those two analogies might be a little too dark, especially the one about Sisyphus. Even Albert Camus took a more positive angle on Sisyphus’s fate. Camus said that while Sisyphus was doomed to an unceasing struggle in which he accomplished nothing, he was probably happy despite the futility of his actions because the struggle itself is enough to fill the human heart.”
“I’ll write that last part on the board,” I said.
“Fine,” Joe said, “but consider adding a drawing at the bottom of the board of a lion tamer.”
“Without a chair,” Tim said.