Friday, May 17, 2013

Getting Ready to Close

My wacky kids celebrating the final days of school, June 18, 2013--two more days until I retire.
[Warning: Contains disturbingly cynical views about teaching.]

This is my first time back here since "Opening Night" was written last September, eight months ago. This post is the other bookend of my final year as a fourth grade teacher. I reached the decision to retire this past winter, after several outbreaks of immune deficiency that manifested in weird ways, like a sty on my eyelid, and a herpes sore on my upper right lip. I was breaking down, and I figured a big part of the cause was the stress of teaching...

Yesterday was hellish--the end of a grueling 4-day-over-2-week battery of state mandated tests for student progress. So yesterday, the students were not in much of a mood for learning. Most rallied to the task, though, except for the usual battery of seven or eight 10-year old boys who pretty much just wanted to horse around. The well-behaved and studious girls were far more subtle in their loitering--quick whispered deskside visits, and notes passed underhand, many with cute little drawings on them.

This year hasn't been easy, but then none of them are. The boys had collectively been considered a handful by last year's teachers. I approached them from the point of view that although I knew they really wanted to do their best as students, they'd gotten into some bad habits...

I don't know. At least they learned to give lip service to our ideal to of paying attention, asking good questions, and doing our best. But I could never accept that, in actual fact, they often did not seem to care about learning. They were comedians or racounteurs first, impulsive, finding it hard keep seated. Nothing new in that. That's the way we boys have always behaved in school.

That's the way I behaved, and still do when I go to professional development classes.

But when I teach, I figure my job is to promote learning about one hundred percent of the time, and, by god, they better pay attention, or at least do a damn good job of pretending. And when they apply that learning, stretch and explore it, their job is to do their best--ask questions if they don't understand, and follow directions.

Even with that hard-assedness, though, my natural inclination is to keep it light, but--with the boys again, almost exclusively--once I start not being serious, the floodgates of juvenile humor and anarchy are unleashed, and are darn hard to stuff back into their unkempt boxes.

So, now, it's another 5 A.M. Friday getting ready for what I hope will be an easier day of work, what with the pull-outs for music and PE--altogether an hour break from the kids before lunch.

In the broader scheme of things, I am proud to have served as a teacher to these 10-year-olds for the past nine years, and it is time to retire, with this good feeling, and the desire to continue to teach, more on my own terms.