The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spring Blues

      This past week has felt like a month for a lot of reasons.  This has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of the students are experiencing end of the year blues.  My students are normally very responsible and very respectful, but there have been a lot of discipline issues this week. Even students who aren't necessarily doing anything wrong are just really dragging. It is hard to explain, but this is the best way I can explain it:
      Yesterday, as we transition from silent reading time (first ten minutes of class) to our work for the day, I instruct students, "Okay, get to a good stopping point, then please take out your homework, your speech packet, your notes from yesterday, and a piece of paper."  This is fairly routine for my class. They finish reading and I let them know what they need for the day, which is also on the board with our agenda for the day and our objective for the day.  I have a sign that says: "What's Due?"  under which I always write whatever is due that day first, so they know to take it out.  It is May.  These routines are clearly established.  Yet, yesterday, several students finish a paragraph in their books, put their books down, then just sort of stare at me. I see the glazed over look in their eyes, so I repeat my instructions.  Students start to reach for their backpacks, spending a ridiculous amount of time digging for their papers.  By this point in the year, few of them have any school supplies left, and parents in my community don't budget for this in May, so they all get up and wander towards my supply shelf, where I eye the packages of notebook paper, trying to estimate if what I have left is even going to last all day, partially irritated that they didn't grab this on the way in the door anyway. Despite my circulating, urging students to expedite this process, at least three minutes pass before all students have their materials out and are ready to learn. That might not sound like a lot, but I prefer my transitions to be much quicker. 
      Another source of frustration has been my honors class.  I have frequently been told by my previous honors students that the class really feels like a family by the end of the year.  That didn't happen this year. In fact, it is just the opposite, but I have no idea why.  I didn't do anything differently.  I still did all of the projects that I designed to create a sense of community. In fact, if anything, I thought I did better at them this year, but this group is just really competitive and doesn't want to be a family.  They don't like each other... and I don't really blame them.  There are a lot of strong personalities in there that aren't really compatible, and they don't really want to help each other.  I was a junior in college before I figured out that working together with my classmates was really the best way to ensure success.  We all "get" different things in class, and we all have different ways of explaining them, which is to the benefit of all of us if we share.  My masters cohort is really good at this.  When our professor's instructions for an assignment are unclear, someone usually starts a "What are we supposed to do?" email, to which everyone replies all, and eventually we all get it.  Having had these experiences myself as a student, I design my advanced classes to really support this learning attitude, but it just didn't "take" this year, which I am finding sort of depressing. It's even to the extent that I am going to need to dump the final project I had planned.  It just isn't going to work with this group.  I find this both depressing and stressful, as I am going to have to adjust my planning, and as mentally exhausted as I am right now, I just don't have the mental energy to plan something new right now, but I'm going to have to.  Sigh.
         This week was also, as many of you know, production week for my drama class.  I attempted a full-length (albeit slightly abridged) Shakespeare production this year, which was for sure the hardest show I have ever produced.  The majority of my drama students speak English as their second language, and although they are mostly proficient in English, Shakespeare is a horse of a different color. It was like teaching them an entirely different language, while also teaching them method acting and stage movement and all those other important things.  Even with Janelle's assistance, this was still an incredibly difficult achievement, which was not made any easier by the enormous cast size, or by the fact that I double cast many key roles, which gave me half as much time to work with those actors. However, the show went off without any major hitches, and the students did a solid job, at least for high school students anyway.  Their comedy got thunderous laughter last night and Borachio and Margaret's scandalous scene got quite an uproar.  When Claudio disgraced Hero at the wedding scene, the audience collectively gasped in horror for her, which is totally the intended impact of that scene, so that was really cool.  Overall, I am really proud of our collective achievement.... and really exhausted. 
      This show has just drained me so much that I came home every night utterly exhausted and too mentally drained to get any work done on my last few projects of my masters program. I even turned in an assignment late, which was a first for me.  I don't think I have ever been late on any assignment before, at least not in my masters program or my credential program.  I think I was late on one assignment in my bachelor's program, but that was because I gave birth to Vinny that week (and the professor excused it).
         I am just a few assignments from being really done with it all, but I got nothing done on any of them this week.  As I lay on the couch after rehearsal mindlessly catching up on episodes of Smash, I was mentally chastising myself for not working on it all, but I really could not mentally function at the level required to write papers.  Now, it is the weekend, and I am recovering, but I am probably going to need to spend this whole weekend making up for it, which really sucks, because I'd much rather spend this beautiful weekend spending time with my kids, who I really missed over the last week.
      Tech week/production week means I leave before my kids wake up and get home after they go to bed, so I really, really missed them this week.  I am going to be so excited to be done with this program just to spend guilt-free time with my kids. Just another week.  Pretty much everything is due this Thursday.  Now, if I can only get through the next four days.

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