This post is dedicated to the final days (and more comically, the final day) of a public school before a break for the holidays.
I sit comfortably in my apartment on the Sunday after Christmas. This is a Sunday defined by close Jets loss, at least 20 inches of snow falling in Brooklyn, Xbox 360, and no real need or pressure to shower/get dressed all day. Right now, thinking in my quiet apartment, my brain can function at a rate about 5 times greater than anytime last week.
After a much needed Friday and Saturday of food, spas, family, and True Grit, I can look back at the last few days and laugh.
Trying to teach anything on the last few days before a break is like trying to climb up the opposite side of an escalator.
And this downward escalator’s steps are moving faster than your normal escalator.
And filling up all the lanes of this escalator are screaming middle school students blocking your ascension to the next floor…..
Sorry, I’ve lost my metaphor and phased into a weird and scary dream that I’ve had about school. Anyways:
I did feel like it was a possibility to get my students to focus, but it took so much more effort on my part. Anyone who has gone through grade school knows that when you close in on a long-awaited break, the whole atmosphere changes. The students are less directed and less focused than usual, and many of the teachers do let their guards down. Who can blame them? Sleep, relaxation, and clarity of mind are so near that it doesn’t make any sense stressing about minor student annoyances. When it comes down to it, everyone really just wants a break from the work.
To further complicate my job last week, I had more students absent for seemingly random reasons than any other week of the year. If my relatively small number of students (with learning disabilities) don’t show up to school, I can’t support them at all. This has been one of my top frustrations this year, and its flat-out sad.
In addition, I’ve had two or three observations from supervisors from graduate school and other program people over the last few week. They’ve all given me some greatly appreciated “constructive criticism”. I put “constructive criticism” in quotes because it just fits. For me, its that dreaded type of criticism that you immediately resist and get defensive about, but then realize after a few days is honest and worthwhile. At the time I received said feedback, it was more stressful than beneficial – but I guess that’s what this break is for – to iron out some teaching plans and get better.
Finally, the last day of school before a whopping 10 days of freedom was Thursday. To sum up Thursday in a sentence: It was a giant movie-watching, game-playing, gift-giving, party-having waste of time. I don’t mean it to sound grouchy or anything, and nothing makes me happier than the fact that the school watched my favorite holiday movie Elf.
But in all seriousness, we ALL did not need to be at work on Thursday. I do think that celebratory days are necessary, but I think that an entire seven periods of 11 to 16 year olds watching pixar movies and then running around the hallways with plates of food could have been done at home.
I want to end the post with the statement that this year of teaching has been so different than last year, but much better and more comfortable. I think that this result is a mix of the school atmosphere being superior and my having a little more experience dealing with daily problems. Or maybe its because I can complain and vent about the stressful or ridiculous events on this here blog. Either way, hopefully it continues to get better for the second half of year two.