Friday, May 5, 2017

May (in Education) is the Cruelest Month

I've never been a paper chainer -- you know, the people who make a countdown to some momentous day by looping a bunch of paper links together. And I take no issue with those who are, but I think I've always been more of the live in the now type.  I try to accept things as they are without pushing too hard to transform them into something else.  But panic is beginning to set in. I don't know if a paper chain would be a boon or a burden.

I know we say February is the hardest month in education, but I'm beginning to believe May is equally painful.  Its proximity to summer allows us to conveniently forget that.  I always accomplish the necessary items on the to-do list, but knowing that doesn't stop me from feeling like I'm going under right now.

I love teaching seniors at every point of the year but now.  They took the AP exam on Wednesday and they are checked out.  They showed up to class today utterly unprepared and nonplussed.  I probably should have put my foot down, been angry, scolded them.  Instead, I rose the white flag and surrendered.  Just go outside and read, I acquiesced.  I let them win.  I couldn't muster the energy to fight them today.  We have 4 more classes together.  And I'm sad.  May, man.  I want them to work hard until the end.  I want to hold on to them equally as much as I want to push them out. All they can see is the future.  They've been paper-chaining since September.  I can't fault them that, but it makes the days harder when they're already a foot out the door, more consumed with prom and the senior squirt gun fight and graduation parties than the work we still have left.  They don't have any time for heavy literature.

Today I've started 20 different tasks but haven't accomplished a single one.  I graded half a stack of essays.  Then I picked up another class set.  I sent emails to 3 different people to begin momentum on a big undertaking.  None of them have responded.  Because it's May. But I can't move forward until they provide the information I need.  I spent entirely too much time on the phone trying to move another task forward. Ultimately, I accomplished nothing; I wasted my planning period.  Then I got wrapped up in planning the Retirement Tea and a baby shower for a colleague, because of course I'm the Social Committee Chair. (It seemed like such a good idea in August.)  I nearly forgot a lunch meeting. The day has been both interminable and a race.

Likely because I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, I then became consumed with the task I've been dreading more than any other: packing up my classroom.  Sure, there's the emotional element of it; leaving this beautiful classroom where I've spent the better part of the last 11 years is like saying goodbye to an old friend.  But it isn't even that.  I can't even get sappy about it yet.  It's the realization that I have so.much.stuff.  I've worked hard to cultivate and grow my classroom library.  I have 22 shelves of books.  I began packing them today, mostly so that I can see some physical progress and feel like I've accomplished something.  I've emptied 4 shelves of books now, barely a dent. They filled 4 boxes.  Yep.  A shelf of books equals a box.  And the enormity of 22 boxes of books is a heavy thing -- figuratively and literally.   And that's just the classroom library. But I've been given my eviction notice.  So on top of ensuring all the papers are scored and the grades are updated and finalized, I also have to be out of the room.  The key's due by 3:00 p.m. on May 31st.  May's hard enough anyway. This adds a whole new layer.

But then I remember it's Friday and the sun is shining.  I know that this too shall pass.  The work will get done.  The miraculous thing about deadlines is that somehow we always find a way to meet them. Moment by moment, breath by breath, link by link.

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