"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Real Test

My feet hurt. I have a headache. I forgot my water bottle today and by lunchtime I was parched. My lips were dry, my throat was scratchy, and my temples throbbed. I was not ready to go back to school today.

I like the built-in straw.
But tomorrow I will have my water bottle handy, and it will be a better day.

Actually, other than my little dehydration predicament, the first day back from paternity leave went swimmingly.

My class of seniors is down to six students. Ten are on the roster, and one girl tends to leave halfway through the period and not come back. She had a nurse emergency today. I've decided not to argue with her about it. So we were down to five until a student I've never met (he was new to the class in March) walked in with about 20 minutes left of our 100 minute class. My other senior classes tomorrow have larger rosters but about the same percentage of attendees. They have 14 class periods left before graduation. You'd think that wouldn't be so hard.

The two junior honors classes are reading Pride and Prejudice. They have to finish that book and give an oral presentation explicating a passage for the class. They have to also complete another oral presentation for the program assessment on their own time. Which means my own time, too. After school presentations. Every day for a week. Then they will read Hamlet, and then they will study a little Browning and possibly Keats and Yeats, who will be on your side if it's a dreaded sunny day. (Sorry about that. Every time I think of Keats and Yeats, the lyrics to The Smiths "Cemetery Gates" drag me back to 1986. Here's the song so you can sing along.)

And all of the above is supposed to happen in six weeks. My head hurts again.

At the end of the day, a soccer player popped her head in my room to say welcome back. (I had coached the girls soccer team for the past five years, but not this spring because of my leave.) I said hey and asked her how soccer was going. She shook her head and said that they're a good team, but they're not winning games. I said I missed being out there, and she said, "I find myself reaching the point sometimes where I need someone to start yelling at us." I laughed. She was talking about me. I do yell a lot as a coach. "We need a little more discipline out there this year," she said as she left for practice.

I started thinking. One of the things about teaching is that it's difficult to really tell if you're good at your job. You can love being there every day, or feel valuable as a meaningful part of someone's life. You can even witness the occasional epiphany and feel satisfaction that you might have had something to do with it. But knowing that you're actually teaching, that a student has actually learned and changed? Today's "reformers" will tell you a test score is enough to judge by. All I need is a student to pop her head in to say hi.

Like this.
That and a comfortable pair of shoes.


  1. I was an English teacher at a school for at-risk adolescents for a while. I know exactly what you mean.

  2. Comfy shoes can make any day just a little bit better. :)

    I'm glad your first day back wasn't horrible. I hope things will improve for you day by day as you get back into the swing of things.

    It's always good to know that our efforts (in any part of our lives) are not going to waste. I admire teachers for the work they do, it takes a very special personality type to teach effectively. Keep up the excellent work! :)

  3. Kids! I suppose a clip round the ear and telling them to turn up on time is out of the question?

  4. That sounds incredibly satisfying. Congrats on the baby, and on reaching some students. These things are far too rare these days.

  5. I have to say that in all my years of being a student, it's interesting to read about the teacher/professor's side of things.

    I do hope you keep this up...

    oh...and those shoes are pimpin'

  6. Thanks, AP. Sometimes I'm too cynical for my own good, but it's nice to hear that someone wants to hear about it. And Asics are the prettiest shoes of all the shoes.

  7. Apparently, my previous replies have disappeared. Sorry.

    @ MJ: Thanks for the sympathy? empathy? It's a dirty job...:)

    @ Candice: thank you, too. And I wore the trainers today. Feet feel better.

    @ Mooderino: Sometimes I think we should just lock the door to the building when the bell rings. If they're late, they can try again tomorrow.

    @ wescott: It's deep.

    @ Matthew: Unfortunately, it's only so satisfying every once in a while. But those times usually make up for the rest of the times.

  8. I hate that sore throat because I'm so thirsty and I've been talking all day feeling. I totally feel your pain.

    I was in a class with three other students my senior year and there was this one boy who would go to the bathroom at the same time ever single time, stay gone twenty minutes, them come back. But he got caught by an office administrator. Turned out he was meeting his girlfriend in the faculty bathroom in the science wing.

    You're a coach and a teacher? That's so weird! Our coaches who are teachers always taught history or geography. That's the way it is everywhere in Texas. Things are weird where you live.

  9. Chanel, It's actually pretty crazy to be an English teacher and coach. English classes are notorious for their paperwork: grading essays takes so long. But I make do because I love the soccer.

    Are you following the discussion of Austin TX over with Mr. Cheese? and you're calling Colorado weird...

  10. Hang in there. Times will hopefully get easier and you'll have your trusty waterbottle

  11. Thanks, Michael. Just five weeks left of school. And water helps so much, you wouldn't believe.