Spring is that time of year when teachers really feel like they’re spinning.
Spring break is in sight, and beyond it, the shimmering oasis of summer vacation. The long slog through the school year has taken its toll, and we either embrace or evade the exhaustion that it brings; either way, a payment is due, and that payment will be settled in extra sleep or extra stress or extra drinking or extra crying. Or extra all of the above.
Of course, the students see the same oases that the teachers do, but without any of the adult grasp of importance of finishing what you start, or long-term goals vs short-term happiness, or simple good sense. So the kids start to lose their minds a little bit, they start to embrace the summertime laziness a little early, they start to really just kind of get on your nerves.
Teaching is one of those jobs in which the working year starts off hard and only gets harder, as we have to find ways to keep students motivated while their internal motivation is circling the drain. Or, just as likely, we have to deal with a cascade of students who are suddenly failing and can’t grasp why. And of course, behind the tidal wave of suddenly incapable students is the even bigger, louder wave of parents who don’t want to believe that Johnny hasn’t turned in any homework for over a month.
It’s a tough time of year for teachers. I get a little jaded. From the start of the semester I preach and preach to my students — to my high school seniors, even! — the importance of laying solid foundations NOW. Setting good study habits, doing the reading and the writing on schedule, getting the grades of which they are capable on the front end so as to establish good momentum to carry them through the year, to insulate themselves against the senioritis which inevitably creeps in around this time of year.
And yet. It is March, and I find myself preaching again, this time that for those of them who do not see the grade they want, the time to work to fix it is NOW. The time to repair the damage is NOW, before the leaks flood the hold and become irreversible. And the next day I look out into the classroom and I see the tops of heads, their eyes aimed at their cell phones instead of the text of Macbeth. I hear them talking about whatever the kids talking about these days instead of their thematic analyses. I see them putting their heads down and sleeping in class instead of even simply trying to passively absorb anything going on in the classroom.
Soon it will be April, and their 68s will have turned into 62s and 57s, and I will rail again that grades can be recovered and redeemed, but only if they take action NOW, only if they stop the bleeding, cauterize the wound, infuse some initiative, and work to save themselves. And still, I will sit in my classroom alone at 7:30 in the morning, ready and on-call to offer them the help and the time to save themselves, but as useless and unappreciated as a street magician.
And then it will be May.
And they will flock to me like seagulls on an unattended Big Mac.
What can I do to bring my grade up?
Can you give me some points for this?
Oh, you wanted me to turn that in?
Is there any extra credit?
And that’s when teachers begin to have aneurysms.
Every year, I feel like the blind man who sees the future and tries to warn the city of the impending disaster, and who gets ridiculed for his trouble … until the volcano erupts. Of course, by the time the volcano erupts, I will be lounging on Tybee Island and drinking a very cold, very alcoholic beverage.
If you are a parent and you have a kid in school (and I mean, from elementary all the way up to college, to be frank), this is the time to watch them extra closely. Teachers can only push so hard; kids need the push from mom and dad too.
If you’re a student reading this, know that the number one determining factor in your success is yourself. Mom and dad and your teachers can push all they want, but if you don’t care about your grades (or, gasp, the things you’re learning in class), none of that will matter.
Didn’t mean to end up preaching.
Not that I’m much of a preacher.
It’ll be all right. God never gives us more than we can handle. Because God doesn’t exist. He can’t give us anything. Whatever life has given us, we can handle it. When we can no longer handle it, we die.
…Man, that took a dark turn.
Here’s a picture of a bunny to cheer things up. It’s topical, too, because of Easter … because rabbits who deliver chocolate eggs totally have something to do with this … holiday? … can you even call it a holiday since it happens on a Sunday?