There are ten days of school left, and if I were any good at math, I’d break it down to the hours, minutes, and seconds. But who’s counting?
Okay. I’ll be honest. The teachers are counting. And we’re counting hard.
This time of year is the hardest. We’re busy. We’re tired. There’s so much to be done and no energy or enthusiasm to do it. We’re completely enervated. Yet, we cannot curl under our desk and hide from the students. We’re on. All of the time. The kids come in and complain about work and offer their unsolicited wisdom: “Hey, Ms. L, do you know what you could do to make your class more enjoyable?”. A part of me dies inside because I cannot respond, “Do you know what you could do to be more enjoyable in the class?”.
Then there’s graduation and all of the kids that teachers wrote letters of recommendation for and did not receive any recognition of gratitude (unless you consider a breezy “thanks” as they saunter out the door with the letter you slaved an hour or two over, dredging your memory for the times they shone in class). And then there’s the AP students who get accepted to prestigious universities, but who also did not take the AP exam after promising you they would. And the student who continuously fails and does not use the rope you continually toss to him to save himself. He prefers to drown instead. Or when you suggest to students to voluntarily write a letter to a teacher–any teacher–for teacher appreciation week and the students’ response is, “I’ll do it for extra credit.” I won’t go into the multitudinous emails and meetings that eat up energy and time. Or how people who don’t teach think they know everything about teaching. Or the stack of papers that need to be graded that miraculously regenerates itself: it never goes away.
There’s a lot that brings us down, makes our hair gray, and deepens our crow’s feet. But there are quiet moments in the class that give a glimmer of hope and catches us off guard. The boy who was scolded for doing a lackadaisical job on his study guide raising his hand and asking for me to check his work on the new study guide. It reveals vast improvement. The boy who seemed like he was humoring me all term suddenly asking, quite earnestly, if I was going to read his name at graduation. The students who did take the AP test excited because they could apply the baptism archetype and students at other schools had been stymied by the same prompt. The unexpected thank you note from a former student who ignores me when he sees me in the hall. The parent who, after the Senior Awards Night, invited me to join the family for dinner.
Teachers don’t need Starbuck’s gift cards, t-shirts, big signs, or coffee mugs to get through the day (but I will admit, chocolate helps a lot). We don’t want an award or fanfare. It’s the signs of life in our students– their displays that they care: about their work, their learning, and even on occasion, their teachers. Anything really that shows that we’re getting through to them. It’s the little things that count.