Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hang in there, teachers! We got this!

I wanted to post more on this blog throughout the school year, but of course, after working 10 hours a day plus random weekends, working out, training for a half marathon, and keeping up with my household I just didn't find the time.

And now it's the month all teachers dread: May.

May is such a touch time of the year for teachers, students, and administration.  We are on the home stretch, the finish line is in sight, but we have a huge hurdle called testing to jump over.  But once that's cleared, what do you do with anxious students for three weeks when you are exhausted yourself?

In the fine arts world, May is filled with end of the year plays, concerts, and trips.  We are the reason students come to school, and rewarding them with fun trips is one of the best parts of teaching.  But not when you are just plain exhausted!

If you teach middle school like I do, you know the struggle is real right now.  All year long we ask students do to the same thing over and over again, and have they learned?  Probably not.  "Take your gym clothes home."  "Sit down when the bell rings."  "This is your 12th tardy of the 9 weeks and it's the end of the school year.  You know your schedule by now." "Walk in the halls."  They still exhibit the same behaviors at the end of the year as they did in August, and it's frustrating as teachers to be on repeat this late in the year.  Lucky for me, I get some kids three years in a row, and you know what?  These behaviors don't change after three years, either.  Hang in there!

State testing in Texas starts up again tomorrow.  No more last minute tutoring; no more cramming; no more notes and emails sent to parents about their child's performance in class.  What these kids do in the next four days determines if our school is good enough; if our teachers are good enough; if the kids are good enough.  It all comes down to this.

But does it?  These tests don't see what I see in these kids.  When I look up their test information to get an idea of their reading level before assigning monologues and scenes, it really surprises me sometimes.  The results don't match up with what I see from these kids on a daily basis. There are so many victories in our public schools are not tied to testing.

Like the little 6th grade girl who was too shy to perform her monologue in front of the class in September, so after some tears, she performed for me and her best friend one morning before the first bell.  She grew so much in the last year that she competed at the spring speech contest and was cast in two roles in our spring show.  Where does that victory belong?

Like the girl who was so shy in 6th grade that I was happily surprised that she came to audition for the musical.  She was cast as an ensemble member, and the rest is history.  She went on to win several plaques and ribbons at speech contests and acting awards for one act play in her 7th and 8th grade years.  Where does that victory belong?

Like the little boy who doesn't seem to talk much, but when he does, it's amazing.  When I first met him, his parents did all of the talking, then when he left the room, his dad told me to go easy on him because he's shy.  Of course I deal with shy kids all of the time, so I treated him like any other student in my room.  I held him to the same expectations as the rest of my students and he rose to meet them time and again.  And would you believe that this child, who's parents do nearly everything for him, including talking, is excellent at impromptu speaking?  Where does that victory belong?

Teachers, don't let the results of this week determine your self-worth as an educator.  You do more than drill them with math facts and reading strategies.  You mentor these young people to think for themselves, solve problems on their own, and create.  You nurture their emotional health because God knows middle school is a roller coaster of emotions from day to day.  You are the parent that is absent.  You mean more than test results.

As summer is approaching, I find myself too tired to go out and enjoy life on the weekends.  I just want to sleep, eat, then take a nap.  I'm feeling the end of the year exhaustion as I know you are, too.

Hang in there.  It's all worth it in the end.


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