May 7 to 11 was Teacher Appreciation Week. At my school we had lunch provided two different days, breakfast one day, and ice cream treats at the end of another day. We got a lot of free food this week!
This is an interesting time of year for Teacher Appreciation Week (TAW for this post). The schoolyear is coming to the end, and theoretically everyone’s heart is filled with gratitude for all the hard work they’ve seen the teacher do throughout the year.
But the timing of TAW is weird for middle school teachers. We started the quarter coming off Spring Break with a marathon review for state tests (Picture kids running away screaming “Ahhhhhhh,” and teachers madly running after them with a textbook saying, “Just one more thing to remember!”). Then we had the six days of testing (Picture teachers biting their nails to the nub and students sitting in front of computers until they’re cross-eyed). Then (finally) we got back to the business of teaching.
Except . . . the weather turned wonderful and the kids were done. Done! We kept pouring on the lessons because, come on, there was still seven weeks of school left. It’s not easy to drum up that second wind of energy to motivate twelve year olds when a warm sunny day beckons them and you outside. But we pressed on.
Last week (during TAW) I watched this conversation between the Science teacher and a student.
“I lost my tests over chapters 6, 7, and 8, and I need copies to study for the final.”
“You lost all three of them?”
“Uhhhh, yeah. Can I have another copy of them?”
The teacher stares back for a long time, probably wondering how long before the three replacements get lost. Then, “Sure.” While the tests are printing out the teacher asks, “Where’s your circuit board? I want to see how much you’ve done.”
“Uhhhh. Yeah. I think it’s done.
“Go get it.”
The student walks back with a board covered with red paper.
“I thought your board was done.”
“Uhhhh. Yeah. Well, it’s not quite done.”
“It’s not even started.”
“Uhhhh. Yeah. I haven’t printed off my pictures yet.”
“Have you found them on the internet?”
“Uhhhhh. Yeah. I have them.”
They both walk over to a computer. The student logs on, scrolls through numerous documents, opening and closing folders.
“Where are your pictures? Did you save them in a folder?”
“Uhhhhh. Yeah. I, uhhhh, I haven’t saved them yet, but I know what I want.”
“Have you chosen a topic?”
“Uhhhhh. Yeah. I have a topic.”
“What is it?”
“Uhhhhh. Yeah. Uhhhh. Uhhhhh.”
It’s just too painful to watch any longer. I walked away.
During TAW I read a blog by John Piper about feeling fragile.
There are mornings when I wake up feeling fragile. Vulnerable. It’s often vague. No single threat. No one weakness. Just an amorphous sense that something is going to go wrong and I will be responsible.
That pretty much sums up how middle school teachers feel this time of the year. The free food during TAW is what gets us to work.