Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Revisiting the Empty Nest

Ah, June.

The smell of flowers, the sound of birds in the trees.  The warmth, the sunshine, the late sunsets and barbecues and flip-flops.

I love June in the classroom, because the damn tests are over and we can learn the way we love to learn. We read and debate and look things up on the internet. We play math games, and write poetry and stories just for fun.  We write and perform a play.

I love June in the classroom because we all feel the approaching end of our time together, and we are more tender with each other.  The morning hugs are a little bit tighter, the afternoon good byes tend to linger.  Everyone has a “sharing” at morning meeting, and everyone wants to tell me just one more little story.  I love June because we finally all realize how lucky we are to have had our little community to sustain us all year.

But I hate June in the classroom, because we are all simply out of academic energy.  We don’t really want to keep reviewing our math facts.  We’re tired of the Civil War.  We just want to play outside, and we wish we could play like we do at home; without all those rules about safety and friendship and how to be inclusive.

And I hate June in the classroom because we are all acutely aware of the approaching end of our time together, and we are more prickly with each other. Some of us are tired of tolerating each other’s quirks.  Some of us now look at each other almost as siblings, and we squabble as if we were related.

And some of us are playing, “You can’t fire me, I quit.” Those are the kids who begin to act out in June, pushing the rest of us away, trying to make the impeding separation easier.

I’ve seen these reactions before!  Pull me closer while pushing me away.

I see it every June in my classroom.

I saw it three times in my home, as each of my children prepared to move away to college.

Every June I find myself once again eager to get to the end, but dreading the fact that “my” kids will be leaving me. Every June I revisit the experience of the Empty Nest.

June in a fifth grade classroom.

“You can’t fire me; I quit.”


A Prayer to Gods of the School Year

It’s that time of year once again.  Time to peel the names of last year’s kids off of the mailboxes and attach the names of the new kids.  Time to unpack 8 boxes of books and vow to keep the classroom library more organized this year.  Time to review the new……well, the new everything.  August is the month of new curriculum, new standards, new tests, new evaluation procedures, new technology, new policies, new materials and new local/state and federal mandates.

August is also the time of the annual Prayer to the Gods of the School Year. I offer this prayer now, on this lovely sunny morning, on what may well be my last chance to be well rested until Christmas vacation rolls around.

“Dear Great Educational Spirits,   

Hear the plea of this, your most humble servant.  

Please grant me and my students a happy, healthy school year. Please keep us all safe.

I pray that you give me the patience to calmly explain why it is not a good choice to jump over your desk when you are asked to line up for recess.  Please give me the sense of humor to laugh at myself when I forget how to do a math problem involving probability.

 I pray that you grant me full control of my facial muscles, so that my internal reactions to “Owww!  I just whacked my nutsack!” and “Wait, where do we put the homework?” both look the same .  Oh, and I pray that those facial muscles convey total calm and serenity. All day.

Oh, Great Spirit, 

May the copy machine remain my friend; may it refrain from eating the 5 page research assignment of which I need 25 copies.  May it hold onto its toner when I am in the middle of running off 80 copies of the permission slip that has to go out today.

May my SmartBoard light stay lit, and may my contact with Tech Support be limited.

May our annual three day nature campout in the mountains be free of rain, snow, ice pellets and swine flu (you remember THAT year, don’t you?)

May the parents in my class understand that I am just a tired middle aged lady who is giving it my best, and may they not expect me to reply to every email within an hour.  

May the pencil supply last all year!  May the math books arrive on time and the history texts be right where I put them in June.

May my aging desk chair retain its wheels.

May our science experiments thrive, but not with mold.  

May the heat in the room remain somewhere between 60 and 80 degrees, at least on most days.

Great spirit, I pray that you will grant me a group of kids who are curious enough to get me thinking, mischievous enough to keep me on my toes, comical enough to have us all laughing as we learn, active enough to make sure that we go outside a lot and just cute enough for me to overlook all of the little things.  

Actually, oh God of Public School, that last part was probably not necessary.  It seems to me that you always send me a group fitting that description, which is why I always come back in the fall.

So instead let me pray that you give me the physical, mental and emotional strength to give each one of my students my very best, every day. May you surprise me with joy when I look at them, and may you fill me up with a little extra love so that I won’t run out before next June.


Timing is everything

If you are a teacher, you will totally understand this post.

If you not a teacher, I beg you: Please try to understand this post!

It is June. I have just finished a month of final assessments; creating spreadsheets of final scores; meeting with colleagues to create three balanced classes for next year’s teachers; ordering new books- supplies-bugs/fish/weeds; reassuring anxious children and setting up twenty-five end of year conferences.

To make this year a bit more challenging, our school has decided to reorganize so that all of the grade level classrooms will be located side by side. It will be good for us to be so close together, but it means that I have had to pack up every single books, toy, game, map, pen, pencil, paper clip, elastic band, bandaide, cup, marker, crayon, leggo, science kit and tennis ball in my classroom.  I have had to organize it all, throw things away, recycle things and carefully mark all of the boxes with their contents plus my name and new room number.

And I have done all of this while practicing a class play, finishing the history unit, reviewing math concepts, meeting with special education staff and reassuring anxious children.

Tonight is Sunday night; I am heading into my last full week of the school year.  I have spent all weekend writing personal notes to my twenty five students, finishing report cards and writing one last special ed report. I have 18 conferences set up for this week, as well as six performances of the play that my kids have written, directed and performed.

I will be at school for approximately 55 hours this week, and that doesn’t include my hour and half per day on the road to and from.

And this is not all that unusual.

So what is the point of this post, you ask?  As teachers, we all understand that this is a 24/7 job, you say?

Well……I was on the phone with a friend the other day.  We haven’t seen each other for a bit, and we were catching up on the various events in our lives. We were talking about our young adult children.  And she told me that her daughter was about to take the state teaching tests.  I was delighted, because the young lady in question is smart, funny, strong, and empathetic. She has an undergrad degree from a very prestigious private university.  She would make an outstanding teacher.

But as I was expressing all of this to the Mom, she said, “I told her that this is the kind of job she needs!  She’s a single mom, you know? She needs a job that doesn’t have that many hours.”

I didn’t screech. That’s all I can say.

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