Next year, my school's schedule is changing and things will look very different. I'm not opposed to change. However, I sometimes wonder about the reasons, and the foresight and forethought that come along with these seemingly abrupt changes.
Teaching can sometimes be a lonely and isolating profession. We need each other to help us through. This post is dedicated to all of my friends and colleagues who are teachers, but especially to my colleagues from the ARPS district.
A week ago I found out I received the MTA Civil and Human Rights Award; I was nominated and presented the award by Jean Fay, the president of our local MTA. I was nervous and humbled, and shocked. Thank you, Jean. If you know Jean, you know that: she is always impeccably dressed; she is always going on fabulous cruises and trips (evening gowns and all); she loves her students and has worked for years as a paraprofessional; she believes in us and goes to bat for us. You deserve the best-dressed award for sure.
Julie, who I have mentioned before for the sweet treats she brings me at exactly the right times (she can sense when I need them!) makes me belly laugh all the time with her quirky sense of humor and hilarious stories. She claims she is opinionated and judgmental, but she is one of the most compassionate people I know. She is more of a mom to many of our students than their own moms. This picture is for you, Jules.
Then there are my other school buddies, my lunch buddies. I know I can vent with, cry with, and share funny stories with them. Many lunch conversations with Laurie and Tracy have revolved around issues outside of school that are difficult and I know they are always there to support me. Add Catherine and Karen to that lunch mix and it's like happy hour, only at noon, with all the laughing happening (Catherine has a WICKED sense of humor).
My across-the-hall mate Patrick and I check in often, toasting over our morning coffees as we watch the middle school hallways wake up. Whether it's about my own son, cheering up the faculty lounge with interactive posters, leading rock n' roll club, or organizing Friday after school nachos, he is community-minded and kind.
My colleague Mari, who I have mentioned before in this blog, feeds me gourmet lunches when I least expect it and tells me funny stories. Between us we see our group of student 3 or 4 times a day in our classes. She is a strict teacher who holds the highest of expectations for her students, and they know it. She supports them - and me- 150%. She feeds them and nurtures their minds, and they love her for it.
Hallway chitchat with the teachers on my side of the building - Mick, Heather, Kate, Michael, Jim, Amber, Sarah, Brittany, Eli, Irene, Ally, Norm, Marcia, the 4 Jennifers and others make school a more pleasant place to be. On the way to my room in the morning if I have time to talk to Alyssa and Jen, they always have a smile, a compliment, or something funny to say. Downstairs, Judi and Sue are there to welcome people every day and help students with different issues. Dave teaches chorus but is always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone. They never complain about not finding subs, answering parents' questions over and over and over, and all the thousands of other things they do every day. Bruce and Kathy keep our building clean and do some jobs that you would never, ever want to do. My colleague Jamie always has great insights on life and middle school students, and really "gets" who they are.
So, even though I go into my classroom every day and teach my classes and do my work, I find joy in little things like the copy room conversations, the remarks in passing each other in the hallway, the funny comments made by the teacher next to me at the faculty meeting.
If I left you out, it's only because I ran out of time to name you. But you all have played a part in making school a better place to be, even in challenging times, and you have all changed and affected students' lives. You all deserve an award. When people ask me what the middle school is like, I always tell them, "It's an awesome place with amazing teachers and great colleagues," and I mean it.
It's only Tuesday, though it feels like I have been here at last 5 days already. I'm ready for Friday teacher nachos get-together NOW. It's MCAS week.
My official duty is in the hallway.
It's 9 AM. Students walk by me in the hallway with glazed-over eyes and shuffling feet. Boredom radiates from their bodies. As I monitor the hallway, the line for the boys's bathroom gets longer, now 5 restless boys waiting, cracking their knuckles, swinging their arms, and stretching. They can't go into the bathroom together - we have to make them go in one at a time. They might cheat in there, after all.
Teachers sit at either corner of this hallway, laptops out, trying to get some work done in this atmosphere of quiet and seriousness. I sit right in between them, unable to focus on any school work. Other teachers sit inside their classrooms, proctoring the test, 25 bodies hunched over their desks, filling in tiny circles and calculating in their heads.
At 10 AM, after 2 hours of intense test-taking, the actual school day begins. With a shortened schedule, but all classes meeting, the day feels endless. At first, my students arrive to the first class after MCAS subdued. They are tired from not only taking this test, but taking it in a language that isn't theirs. We go slowly in A period social studies, practicing the locations of European countries.
I see the same students about 3 hours later. They are antsy and silly. One of them literally cannot stop giggling. Focusing and settling down takes twice as long as it usually does. When they finally do settle down, and are ready to start our reading for today in oral communication, we have only 25 minutes of class left. One student reminds me of this. Every 5 minutes.
When the dismissal bell rings at the end of the day, the heat and noise in the hallway have both risen. It suddenly is very warm outside, and our building has not changed from heating to cooling yet. The building is stifling. The kids' energy somehow has come back after their testing, and now they are getting feisty and too energetic for school.
I think about all the energy these kids spent on MCAS - preparing for it in class and taking it. Time lost in between MCAS days because of student burnout. All the class time lost I still fail to understand why THIS is better than discussing, learning, exploring, reading, and actually doing school.
Hang in there, teachers.