Boy, what a week. It began with, literally, hundreds of essays to grade; having lost so many days from the beginning of the year, I had no choice but to push everything to the last day possible (and even asked for an extension so I could finish marking them over the weekend and still get a little sleep.) A deep breath and then we launched right into the second quarter: new lesson plans, new texts, new questions.
I laid down the law about absences and trips out of the classroom, both of which students have more control over than they’d like to admit. (One student asked me first thing if she could use the bathroom; I asked her to wait. Once I’d outlined the new policy limiting everyone to four trips per quarter, it turned out she didn’t have to go after all.) Discussing these things is awfully tedious for everyone, but when they’re not addressed, loads of tiny interruptions add up to a vaguely chaotic feeling in the classroom, and ultimately it distracts everyone from our real goal: teaching and learning about English and life.
But there were so many bits of happiness sprinkled throughout all this drudgery. Here are the highlights:
- ONE father called to thank me for tutoring his daughter, who has several rather severe learning disabilities. We’d been studying techniques for test-taking on the SAT, and when her newest scores came in, the guidance counselors were simply shocked she had done so well. She was accepted to her school of choice within a day, where she’ll be able to play field hockey (her sport of choice) and get an education with the supports she needs. “I have two more kids,” he said at the end of the conversation, “so you’ll be hearing from me soon.”
- TWO former students flew at me for hugs and gushing greetings. “Mrs. LOWE! How ARE you? I haven’t seen you in so long!” A third thanked me for all my help preparing her for the SAT; it was even more of a gift to see how much she’d matured in the intervening years, from an awkward and slightly-sullen teenager into a glowing, self-possessed young woman.
- THREE students who were struggling took the time to complete an extra-credit assignment (seeing a play and comparing it with the written work we’d studied in class.) They enjoyed the experience and their grades rose along with their confidence.
- FOUR pianists are progressing by leaps and bounds because they get to work together. It’s amazing to see how much more they learn from each other than from me.
- FIVE minutes after the bell rang, I dashed into class (my first tardiness of the year; I was blindsided by a schedule change and sabotaged by an uncooperative copier.) When I entered the classroom, breathless and on edge, every student was sitting in her desk with her book open. “Oh, hello, Mrs. Lowe,” one called out. “We’ve just been discussing what we think of Hester Prynne.”
So, you see, it wasn’t all bad. It rarely is.