Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Recipe for the Day

3 heaping teaspoons rain
3 cups brilliant sunshine and warm weather
1 Tbsp stir-crazy
6 cups of Mondays left in the school year
1 1/2 cups senioritis
a dash of hope to finish the semester strong

Combine rain and sunshine.  Simmer.  Fold in stir-crazy.  Bring to a boil.  Slowly add Mondays and stir.  Remove from heat.  Add senioritis to the pan until all progress is haulted.  Top with a dash of hope.  Serve.

This was the recipe for the day.  Memory is a funny thing.  It conveniently fails to capture the more painful aspects of life, like childbirth and administering Iowa Assessments.  We look back on those events with a dulled sense of reality.  Childbirth wasn't that bad, right?  (Cue flashes of very numbed memories.)  I think spring is the same way.

What's not to love about spring?  The sun is shining, the days are long, children's laughter echoes through the neighborhood, butterflies float on the breeze, flowers bloom.  It's so easy to forget all the challenging bits of spring, especially spring in the world of education.  The days vacillate between rain and sun and heat and cold with wild abandon.  We're thrown off by the unpredictability, which serves as a larger metaphor for the emotions many teachers experience. We are anxious as we attend meeting after meeting to learn what will change with the coming school year. There is stress over the master schedule, classroom relocation, newly formed collaborative teams.  Teachers resign or take new positions.  Building cuts require restructuring.  It's all just kind of a mess.  Nothing is clear or straightforward or certain.

And then there are the children. I have the (mis)fortune of teaching seniors in AP Lit and this time of year is a doozy.  Do your damn homework!  Discuss!  You know what's expected.  Why haven't you taken a single practice test?!?  The exam is less than a month away!  No, you can't have an extension. Seriously?  You want me to offer sincere empathy about your failed prom plan?  In a mere 3 months this will be a meaningless blip among a thousand other meaningless blips you obsessed over.

And the sophomores with their laissez-faire attitude.  They'll get to it when they get to it.  No biggie, Ms. Moehlis.  It'll get done. So I call home.  I email home.  I practically show up at their homes.  And the parents have had it, too.  They've lost their gumption.  Ground him, I beg.  It's too much work, they sigh. We just have to get through it, and they defeatedly resign.

And then there's the odd energy, the tension.  Fights are rampant this time of year.  Tempers flash, oil in a hot pan.  Words fly.  Punches and hair pulling and profanity ensue.  Crowds gather.  Help is far slower to arrive than in September.  Often the only hope that a fight will dissipate is that some semblance of connection and respect will wash over the face of a kid when she's about to throw a punch, when she's got a fist full of hair.  Her former teacher is standing there, disappointed and tired and witnessing.  She sees her.  She is embarrassed.

And that was today.  It began as a slow simmering but was left on the burner so long it eventually bubbled over. The sophomores showed up unprepared and nonplussed.  I spoke sternly.  I made them write me explanations.  I told them I was disappointed.  I pulled a few to the hall.  I made 15-year-old boys cry. They emailed apologies.  I single-handedly broke up a girl fight (a ridiculously foolish and often futile act).  Luckily, I suppose, I knew one of the girls.  She likes me.  Miraculously, my stern words, simple and firm, made her assess the situation: Enough. I said. This is not who you are. Make the right choice.  Sometimes walking away is an act of courage.  The relationship I built with her was an asset today.  She eventually caved: Only cuz it's you, Ms. Moehlis.  Otherwise I woulda blazed that ho!  But she didn't.  Not today.  Not at school.

Today was exhausting.  I worked hard.  I was reminded often that hard work is often a reward, just not one we reap in the moment.  The day wasn't a loss.  There were many bright spots.  Students heard me.  What you're giving isn't enough.  I'm disappointed in you.  Give more.  Boys cried.  They cried because they respect me. They know I love them.  They know they let me down.  They don't want to.  They'll work harder.  Three AP students came in to work on their papers with me.  They're smart. They're tackling complex issues in literature.  They're striving.  Students look at me in a time of crisis and passion and emotion.  They remember breath.  They remember pause.  Sometimes, thankfully, they walk away.

It's springtime.  It's challenging.  But today I was bathed in the warm white light of the sun that poured through my beautiful windows.  The grass greened.  Students filed in after school to work. We laughed and talked.  They made progress.  This too shall pass.  Summer's only 6 cups of Mondays away.


  1. I'm going through the same things. Crazy, isn't it? What the last six weeks can do to even the most serious students.

  2. Oh Haley, I feel this! Favorite lines:
    "Add senioritis to the pan until all progress is halted."
    "...the more painful aspects of life, like childbirth and administering Iowa Assessments" (love the juxtaposition)
    "Seriously? You want me to offer sincere empathy about your failed prom plan?"
    (And I caught your "beautiful windows" reference :-(!)