Friday, May 15, 2015

It Must Be May

Last night I dreamed I had to give the end-of-grade test on a school bus. For some reason, there wasn’t room for us in the school so we piled onto a school bus where I realized I didn’t have my test administrator’s manual so I had to wing it.  Half the kids took the test on the wrong side of the answer sheet and they wouldn’t stop talking except when these mysterious roving proctors I didn’t recognize would pop onto the bus.  I woke up more exhausted than I was when I went to bed, thinking, “It must be May.”

The end-of-year testing nightmares are only one distinctive sign that “it must be May.”  Ask any teacher and they could quickly rattle off a list of sure signs for you.  The most obvious is that tattling has increased ten-fold.  While you’re annoyed, you can understand, because every pencil tap, dirty look, stepped on toe, and unexplained noise is getting on your nerves more than usual too.  If you enclose any group of twenty-some people in a 20x20 space for close to 200 days, I’d be willing to bet tensions would be on the rise by those last couple of weeks. 

School supplies are scarce.  You don’t have a pencil?  Good luck.  Have you scrounged around on the floor?  I think I saw one over by the closet.  You can blow the dust off.  It doesn’t have an eraser?  Guess you better not mess up then.  The same is true for P.E. equipment.  Our last ball just popped?  I’m sorry.  You know how to play tag, right? 

You don’t even care any more that some of them have gotten slack about writing their names on their papers.  You know their handwriting so well you see it in the back of your mind when you look at them.   The other day, I called out one of my student’s numbers and they said, “How’d you do that?” I said, “I know your numbers as well as I know your names,” and proceeded to go through the whole class, calling out their numbers.  They looked at me like I was an alien from outer space.  Let them think that.  It may work to my advantage these days.  My intimidation factor has lessened considerably since September. 

This four-word phrase has become somewhat of a tagline among my teacher friends and me the last couple of weeks.  Every time a student comes up to the lunch table to complain (at least a dozen times in a half hour lunch period), we mutter it under our breaths.  Every time we speak a little more harshly to a student than we intended to and follow up with an apology, it’s a gentle, unspoken reminder that it’s okay.  Every time the alarm clock goes off and we can barely peel our eyes open, it’s the encouragement that gets us out of bed. 

Every teacher knows that every month of the school year has a distinct feel to it, and most of us have a love/hate relationship with this end-of-our-rope, smile-while-gritting-teeth, busy-busy-busy, countdown-crazed chaotic month we call May.  If nothing else, we find comfort in commiseration as we work together to find one more “fun” way to review while trying to find that delicate balance between keeping them in their seats but yet awake. 

The good part is that it’s almost over.  The ironic thing is that’s also the bad part.  We only have a few more days to cram in every single thing that we wanted to teach them, both academically and otherwise.

Let’s go easy on ourselves, and maybe even a little easier on them too.  We’re almost there.  Let’s make the most of it.  It must be May and that can only mean one thing: next must be June! :)

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