Ah, December. The end of the semester is in sight. My heart is filled with Christmas cheer. My gradebook is up-to-date (a Christmas miracle). Good times, true? Well, mostly. This little stretch between Thanksgiving and winter break is not without its challenges. I mean, I had a student this week who told me that breakfast that day consisted of half a jar of icing. I must have looked doubtful because this student actually pulled out the tub of icing as proof. This is teenage decision making at its finest, and its moments like this that make these last week…fun?
May the Odds Ever Be In Your Favor
December is for data collection. It’s mid-year. Let’s take a test and see if I’ve been teaching to a wall for the last 90-ish days. Now, anyone who works in a middle school knows the kids are, um, spirited this time of year.
SPIRITED: adj. 1. Full of cheer 2. Completely bonkers when not forced into a state of silence
As I sit them down to the test, I can’t help but feel that what happens next is a matter of equal parts luck, skill, and “teacher face”. (One class told me this week that my “teacher face” is terrifying. I rejoiced.) And then the data rolls in. Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. All those days of reading, discussion, and writing reduced to a set of numbers. Did I win the data lottery this year? As I scroll through the deluge of numbers, sometimes that sweet student growth rains down like confetti.
And other times, it does not.
But no worries, there’s always next semester. We teachers are, if nothing else, relentless and patient and well-trained and innovative and…
The Tale of Too Little, Too Late: No, I’m Not Offering Extra Credit
The last-minute credit seeker is always a great source of intrigue for me – that person who doesn’t do the assigned work all semester and then comes in (or worse, emails) in the final hour to find a way to get extra credit. Maybe you know this person; maybe you are this person. Regardless, I have to say publicly and forever: no extra credit happening here, bro.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a heartless, ruthless Trunchbull of an educator. I’ll reteach, retest, regrade until the final bell rings. If a student didn’t get it the way I taught it, we can try new angles into the learning. But extra credit? As in a different, easier assignment? As in you want to not actually master the required skills and still pass my class? *insert aforementioned “Teacher Face” here*
And Now It’s Time for the Airing of Grievances
‘Tis the season to be salty. Fa-la-la-la-LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE IF YOU CAN’T BE NICE! This teenage drama is no joke! Cram all these big personalities and bigger insecurities into the same space for five months, and things are bound to reach a rolling boil. They have. Everyday brings a new complaint, a new drama, a new reason two people think they need to fight. Bless their adolescent hearts.
Feeling the Love
It’s not all bad, though. The best thing about this time of year is that my students are finally comfortable enough to let me know what they think of me. When I have a sub, I’m greeted back with, “Where were you? We missed you.” Yes, I missed them, too. We’re finally in a place where we can talk about writing and books without it feeling forced. We are in the classroom culture sweet spot. Okay, sometimes their newfound comfort means I get a blunt heart-to-heart about my haircut or my outfit choice.
But I love getting to know these funny, rowdy people-in-progress. They say the things adults are too polite or jaded to say. They’re in the middle of everything: full of hope, full of judgement, full of promise. They make the days interesting.
The End Is Near, Man Your Gradebooks
To all my fellow teachers, grade efficiently, and try to enjoy every spastic moment that awaits us in these final days of 2017. May time stand still during your prep period and may your coffee cup always be full.