Read this post on the days when teaching is really hard. Read this on the bad days – when you’ve heard “Mrs. Chapman” repeated 10 million times, you didn’t meet your professional goals, you got a nasty email from a parent, and you are just about ready to pack up your desk and call it quits. Read this to remind yourself that, though those days do come, so do really really good days. Promise.
I just spent the last thirty minutes scrubbing sticky donut residue off of desks and picking up Doritos on the floor. Currently, my classroom looks like a prison cell where a bomb just went off, and the stack of papers that needs to be graded for final report cards is taller than me. I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next few days, but I’m almost giddy with happiness. Today was a really good day.
Today was the kind of day that reminds me why I do this. The kind of day that makes up for the ones that come – inevitably – every February or so and make me consider calling in sick for the next two months from a nervous breakdown, or try to rework the budget so I can “stay home next year” and be free from all the stress/drama/exhaustion teaching can bring. This is the kind of day that says, “you really are making a difference; you really do love this; you really are pretty darn good at it.” Thank goodness there are enough of these days to keep me still loving the profession I’ve been called to even now, at the end of my seventh year in the classroom.
I won’t deny that some of my happiness comes from the fact that I just taught my last class of students for almost three months or that six exam/”work” days are all that stand between me and VACATION… That certainly helps. It also probably helped that, today, my kids brought in donuts, Oreo balls, and cupcakes, and we ate them… At nine o’clock in the morning. Those things made today a good day, for sure.
But… What made it a really good day was sitting in a circle with my tenth graders – the same kids that came in with me almost two years ago now, brand new and inexperienced freshmen – and listening to them discuss the novel Life of Pi with the maturity and wisdom of college students. (I’m not even kidding.)
I actually considered calling off the Socratic seminar today – after all, it was the last day of classes and I thought, for sure, attention-span and motivation would be at an all time low. I figured I’d let them turn in their written responses then sign each other’s yearbooks, eat sweets, and call it a day. But they wanted to discuss. They were excited about the book. They had strong opinions about what they’d read. They were anxious to share their “light bulb” moments about its deep symbolism and metaphors for life with the class.
I read the questions aloud and kept them on track, but the conversation belonged to them. They debated. They asked questions. They built ideas off of each other and enthusiastically shared what they had realized as they read.
I had to stop them after an hour because the cinnamon buns were getting cold. 😉
At the end of the block, I told them I am proud of them, and I MEANT it. They haven’t just grown six inches, started driving, and improved their form on the academic essay – they’ve become readers. I can almost see it happening – when they read a book now, they don’t just look for the answers on the tests or simply try to keep up with the plot, they actually dig. They look for the stuff beneath the words. They feel for the characters, they experience the conflict, the find meaning in the text. When they finish one book, they look for the next one to start; and they talk about books on the school bus, in the locker room, and at the lunch table. Pardon me while I get corny, but is this not every English teacher’s dream?
After the party, we did a movie screening of the ninth grade’s Romeo & Juliet modern day productions. (Five groups are each assigned an act from the play to re-write and film in their Mass Communications class.) They were great. They were funny, and accurate, and you could just tell that REAL learning was taking place. These kids translated virtually an entire play written in old English language and made it applicable to their lives. It’s the best kind of learning, the kind that is disguised in having fun. We clapped, and laughed, and passed a sign-up sheet around to meet to see the movie The Fault in Our Stars next weekend. I got sweet notes from students, heartfelt goodbyes from juniors that I won’t have next year, and an amazing collection of Haikus that two of my students wrote for each of the novels I teach.
Then, when the classroom had cleared, I pulled out my cell phone and noticed I had a new video from our babysitter of Sam singing at the top of his lungs over breakfast. He is having a good day too. 🙂
Not every day is like this. There are plenty of days when leaving Sam feels SO heavy and hard. There are days when I daydream about how easy it would be to have a job that doesn’t take so much of me – something where I sit in a cubicle and don’t take a single thing home at 5PM sounds like heaven on some days – but one of these days is all it takes to remind me that I am right where I’m supposed to be.