It’s really easy to get negative at the end of a teaching year. All the things you thought you were going to fix or conquer over the course of nine months? You’re luck if you cleared 50%. Those people, students or staff, who got on your nerves all year with their super loud nose blowing or myriad excuses for late work, missing forms, uncharged laptops? It all seems to reach its zenith about two weeks before school ends. At which point the energy around school makes it a borderline unstable place to be every day for 8 hours. I could probably write a whole post about coping strategies for the end of the school year but most of it boils down to letting go. This is the time of year when I like to contemplate my successes, reflect on challenges or setbacks, but most of all let go.
A couple of months ago I had a student after school for a required forty-five minutes of work. This student never did any work at home and was required to stay after in order to participate in sports. After about thirty five minutes he finished the task I had given him and got up to leave for lacrosse practice. When I informed him that he had ten more minutes during which time he could sit and read, he got pissy with me and threw his book down before sulking in the corner and pointedly watching the clock for ten minutes. At 3:00 he got up and left without a word.
The next morning he came in the room, came straight up to my desk and said, “I’m sorry about how I acted yesterday.” I thanked him, told him how much it meant to me that he apologized and promptly welled up with tears.
When I worked at the Ferry Beach Ecology School teaching environmental education I always told our staff that at the end of the day if the kids walked away from FBES thinking that being outdoors was cool or fun, then we had done a good job. That was enough. At the end of the year I may not have finished the unit on the Respiratory system or covered every structural possibility for a compare/contrast essay but if I have shown up and been a consistent and positive adult presence in the lives of my students then I believe that is enough.
Do I strive to do more? Absolutely. Every day I work hard to make English and science interesting and engaging, the skills clear and attainable. But for many students learning is a challenge because they are lacking a consistent adult who tells them it is important, and valuable, and worthwhile. Some of them are lacking an adult they can trust. To be that person, as a teacher and not a replacement parent, on any day is damn good enough. I think it is the greatest part of what so many teachers do.