Anyone who’s ever been a school teacher knows this sprint. It’s a sprint to the finish line! Contrary to popular belief, a teacher’s frantic dashing about in mid-May is not for the sole purpose of squeezing in that quick call to a travel agent. Do you have any idea the life of a school teacher at the end of the year?
- Upon awakening, I scan my brain for the “extra-fun” activities I may or may not have provided my first graders, for time is waning. I can’t have the year end without creating these experiences with my kids! Demonstrated dry ice? CHECK Conducted experiments with live worms? CHECK Created rainbows with saturated paper towels? CHECK Baked S’mores from a how-to page on a fake campfire? That one’s coming up today—(note to self: remember to grab the marshmallows from the cupboard this morning!)
- Rush out the door with my pile of papers that I’d brought home to correct. And the laminating sheets, the jump drive, the box of Kleenex. AND the marshmallows. I say rush because I have such a small window of time before the children arrive, so I want to be early and try to stretch it out! My “Digital Inbox” is piling up! (Not sure, but I think I just invented that word.) And I don’t know if you know it, but it’s impossible to sit at one’s computer concentrating on anything after the children have arrived in the room. Try it sometime! Seat twenty-five 7-year-olds in your living room while you work on your taxes. See what happens.
- The amount of deadlines is staggering. Gratefully, I’ve paced myself. But true to form in 2017, the methodology of completing ANYTHING is new-and-improved (*cough, cough* ) so despite my own personal years of experience, I have to learn anew how to accomplish pretty much everything. It might be as simple as navigating through a new format, or it might be fairly complex. The thing is, the-end-of-the-school-year only comes, er… once a year. So, 12 months ago I successfully completed these forms for each student, but—that was 12 months ago. I can’t just sit down and whip it out. The acronyms are staggering, too. EOY, RTI, SLPP, NEPF, PGP, SBCT, OMG…I think the only thing that isn’t an acronym is Pinks-&-Blues. But just wait. There’ll probably be some legislation on that one fairly soon. Just because.
- Here come the students! Their homework folders, once shiny yellow, are now bandaged together with duct tape. Two of the three rings in the binders don’t even close anymore. Parents are still pretty good at ensuring the work is done–kudos to parents for that! But homework is increasingly dog-eared and just plain missing. The list of sight words they’ve been practicing all year is either learned or not learned. In other words, moms and dads have ceased marking the boxes indicating they’ve studied the words with their children the night before. Parents get as weary as teachers do–we understand! Today, one child’s backpack smells horrible. Even the boy sitting next to her noticed! I take a deep whiff while I look inside the thing, trying to identify the horrid odor. Apparently everything she’s ever done since September is being carried around in there. I instruct her to stand by the trash can and empty her backpack, whereupon she tells me her dog peed on it this morning.
- As little ones learn rules and procedures, they begin to see the importance of applying them to their lives. This is all well and good, and just how we like it. Managing large groups of humans requires such civility! The confusion comes when kids begin sorting out which rules apply to them at which times. For example, the little guy who constantly gets out of his seat to come tell me that someone is out of his seat. Or the panicked hand-raiser (“Teacher! Teacher!”) who wants to let me know his neighbor “said a bad word.” These guys have become vigilant at ensuring that everybody is properly vetted. It’s indicative of their formative years, and something that they will certainly (and sometimes unfortunately) outgrow. By Day 171, however, it’s kind of wearisome.
- The students who entered my classroom 9 months ago knew only the sounds of the alphabet. Now they can put sounds together to make words. They know how to put those words together to make sentences. They know how to read and write entire paragraphs–granted, limitations still apply. Sometimes the spelling is phonetic and sometimes entire words are missing (which they don’t seem to notice, even when they read it aloud). I can’t begin to explain how rewarding it is to teach the gift of literacy! But also, I can’t begin to explain the opposite emotion–the feeling that I haven’t done enough, that I could never do enough, and that I really hope summer break doesn’t turn all their brains into Jello.
- Report cards. We’ve been through a lot together. Kids move away, new kids arrive, we adjust and adapt and teach and re-teach. Remember when Jordan’s Halloween costume broke and we all rallied around him to fix it? Remember when Kelly spent the weekend making Play-Doh penguins and stuck them to a makeshift iceberg? Remember when Danny began to say, ” I feel sick–” but didn’t quite get all the words out before he was? Remember the confusion we had with a fire drill when an intercom voice announced, “The Fire Drill is a false alarm, everybody return to your classrooms…” and we wondered what kind of oxymoron was a “false-alarm-fire-drill?” Remember the instantaneous celebration when Juanita got her first 100%? When our puppet demonstrated prepositions, and when the police officers helped the kids crawl through the squad car and out the other side? Tell me what teacher can take all that and feel good about summing it up into “A, B, C, D, F…”
- While the frenzied focus is on documenting student growth against Common Core standards, reporting inventory, requesting tech support and maintenance issues, and creating adequate “thank-you’s” for our parent volunteers, the plethora of planning meetings has taken on a different tone. For, while we work with the results of the “end-of-year,” the topic of our meetings is Next Year. Educators are eternal optimists. If we buy this, add that, rearrange over here, and brush up on our (you name it!) skills over there, we’re certain to get it all right next time.
I don’t know what you imagined the “end of the year” to be. But if you think things are winding down, you are wrong. Life has accelerated. And when we get those last good-bye hugs from those little ones, a piece of our heart walks away with them.
Then we call our travel agents.