Saturday, June 21, 2014

Finals

I had big plans for my blog this year. And by big plans I mean that I had planned to at least WRITE IT. But, oh, how I underestimated how much time it takes to live my life offline.

So here I am, three days out from the end of the school year. It is a busy, stressful time when all of our final grades for the year must be completed, our comments must be finalized, our TEVALs must be approved, and we look forward to two months of rediscovering ourselves apart from  the usual routine.

That is, of course, unless we like routine.

I like routine.

So this year I'm working five weeks during the summer. I'll be teaching an enrichment program for incoming freshmen--many of whom I will be teaching next fall. And now that I have officially been handed the baton to be a freshman cohort English teacher, which means I'll be teaching ONLY freshmen English next year, it's a good opportunity to break the ice with some incoming students who are still just babies. Really. They are. And maybe that's what makes me a good fit as a freshman teacher, if I'm to believe what a colleague said of me yesterday: I'm maternal enough to nurture them, but firm enough not to take any of their B.S. In the game of good cop vs bad cop, I'm the good cop. Usually. Unless you stroll into class 45 minutes late reeking--REEKING--of skunk weed. Then I'm just pissed.

I don't know that I love this time of year. I actually greatly disliked being off last summer. I had no structure, and I felt like I was just waiting for the next school year to begin. That's my issue, and that might be a little more prevalent in those of us, including so many teachers, lucky enough to tend toward anxiety. And by tend toward I mean have it in spades.

I've added to my plate this year in other ways, making this summer break a bit more attractive. I scored a fellowship at a local college, which has been challenging and fulfilling. It winds down in a month, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready for it to end. While I've definitely grown professionally and personally as a result of my work as a fellow, I'm ready for a break. I've been writing and reading my ass off in that program. And then, next fall, I will begin working toward my M.S. in Education at another local college. Fortunately, it's a fast-tracked program, and I will be done next summer. As a friend said yesterday, "basically you're going to hold you breath, jump in and come up for air next July. With your Masters. That's pretty awesome." Yes. It is. And it's a program designed for working teachers who theoretically have lives outside of teaching, so I will hopefully be a little less overwhelmed than if I attended a traditional Masters program. Hopefully.

Despite looking forward to some longer nights on the porch, more time to read and lots more time with my boys this summer, I think one reason why me and so many of my colleagues get so irritable this time of year is because not only are we mired in paperwork and other year-end "deliverables", but our routines are changing. And I don't just mean our schedules. We're saying goodbye to students who are graduating, we're accepting that we didn't get some students to achieve the way we had hoped we would and, in one of the most socially isolating jobs out there, we are stepping away from the friends and colleagues who make our days bearable. In some cases, maybe we're getting a break from colleagues who make our days worse. But usually, we're leaving a support network behind, and that can be a little weird.

A colleague recently said that first responders, nurses and teachers are the only people whose colleagues really and truly understand what they experience. I'm sure this point can be argued, but I get the idea. And it's true in many ways. While I may not be running into a burning building or backing up a partner in a hail of gunfire, teaching--especially "urban" teaching--is a beast. Each story outdoes the next. And while there are many successes, it's hard for anyone not in the profession to understand the kind of crying teachers can do together when they finally reach a kid who had seemed so unreachable, so unwilling, so angry, so at-risk, who had never made eye contact with you or trusted you until... until they do. And when they do, even if they are never A students, you've got them. They've no longer given up. That is why we teach.

Then there are the kids who do give up. That? That can make you more disgusted and discouraged than you want to admit.

And so I think for me it's weird to say goodbye to colleagues for two months, and it's hard to put the year to bed without rehashing what could have been done better. We have to, though. It's over. And so we break for a couple of months, get tan, eat s'mores and let our memories recede a little further. Then, with that chronic (sometimes) low-level anxiety that most teachers have, we start to count on a new school year to tell us how to feel like ourselves again.