Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ah....the Month of May

Excuse the following trite beginning….I simply couldn’t help myself.

May…it is the worst of times….it is the best of times.

The month of May can be classified as the worst of times because testing has been over for at least three weeks. Students pretty much shut down after the final answer has been bubbled, answer sheets have been checked for stray pencil marks, and the standardized “gold” has been packed up and delivered to those high upon that ivory and jewel encrusted tower for analysis and much manipulation.

The month of May can be classified as the worst of times because by the time the ninth month of school rolls around students, teachers, and administrators have been about as tolerant with one another as they possibly can. The colleage or student that rubs you the wrong way seems to try to do so just that much harder once May rolls around. It gets harder and harder to sit on your hands and keep your mouth spouting positives when what you’d really like to do is cross every bridge and torch it into oblivion as you go.

The month of May is also that happy time when parents you have called, have written, have emailed continously all year to please, please engage in a conversation with you regarding their child finally shows up at your classroom door to- to- to- to NOT discuss why their child has been tardy 25 times, NOT discuss why their child has been absent 30 days, NOT discuss why their child has only turned in half of the assignments in each subject each term of the year, NOT discuss why their child has exhibited violent outbursts towards students and figures of authority on the average of at least once daily, NOT discuss your concerns regarding their child’s habit of writing essays that focus on violence and even murder, NOT discuss why their child seems to be so depressed at times, so anxious at times, so insecure at times.

No, that would too easy. Instead May is that happy time of the year when the hard to reach, never have shown their face type of parent shows up and wants to conversate with you after school for two hours telling you their life story extolling a life style that could only exist in someone’s imagination because it’s all too incredible to believe. Stories involving the botched abortion that resulted in the child sitting in your room, the never ending list of significant others parading through the child’s life, and the stints in jail that permeate their child’s life suddenly make you all too aware of why the student acts as they do. The parent doesn’t tell you these things to shock you, but rather they tell you these things to show that any and everything else might be to blame, but they are not.

You realize, after attempting to steer the conversation back to the child’s school performance without little success, the parent isn’t there to help their child. They want you to enable them by simply listening, and then saying it’s ok, but it’s not ok because you’d be fired for telling them what you really think.

On the other hand…

May is the best of times because for many students if you tune in your brain just right and use your best observation skills you can truly see growth in each and every child even the ones like I described above. All children grow in some way during the school year. For example, my dear sweet helper who cried so much at the beginning of the year and followed me around like a little lost puppy…now she is more confident, has stopped following me, and tears? I haven’t seen them in at least two months. My young man who couldn’t seem to finish an assignment unless an adult sat next to him is completing more and more things on his own. One student who has a form of Autism will now sit with the group instead of hanging out on the periphery. My sweet young lady who was literally thrown out of her home and onto the lawn one cold, blustery morning along with her mother and sister (a pox on her father) has smiled more in the last month because her mom finally secured a place for them in a shelter. Thankfully as I move about the room the conversations I hear are the true conversations of a learning community…one where students are sharing information and resourses, one where I hear the phrase, “This is how I did the assignment. What do you think?” more and more and more. Instead of hearing demanding phrases like “Give it to me now.” I hear “Can you show me?”, “Can you tell me?” and “please” fills the air more than “shut-up.”

May is the best of times because I hear, “Gee I can’t wait for summer!” mixed in with “I’m going to miss everyone.” Students get on each others nerves, but many have bonded, they have become secure with one another, and they realize many of those bonds are about to be severed. Our time together is precious over the next few days. I realize it. The students realize it, and we strive to make the most of our moments even with the frustration that May can bring.

Still….we long for summer and announce the new tally at the beginning of each day.

On Monday we will begin the day with a chorus of NINE MORE DAYS!


Joyce said...

What you have said is so touching, and so true. I work specifically with IEPd 6th grade students. It is gratifying to see some of the students come to the understanding that the object of school is for them to LEARN, not just beg someone to help them fill out the assignment so it looks "done."

EHT said...

Exactly, Joyce! An education is not just a completed page, and it is not a test score. It is something much more precious.

Cousin Pat said...

Such true words. Though teaching in New Orleans, I tend to identify far too much with the first part than the last. But reading this was catharsis for me, knowing that there are others, even in other states, going through the same.

And I can identify with some of the positives. Mostly with those students who have turned around because of their involvement with football.

Nine days. Indeed.

Thank you for this post.