Sure, May is synonymous with springtime and sunshine and proverbial flowers. It’s pastel and playful, complete with a cute, little pint-sized name. But for teachers, it is the longest, bleakest month of them all. To quote Shakespeare, now is the winter of our discontent. We face piles of grading, like snow drifts on desktops; raging storms of icy emails from disgruntled parents; cold, impersonal duty rosters updated daily; swirling storms of state-mandated achievement tests raining graphite-filled bubbles; glassy-eyed stares from students whose minds have long gone dormant. That clatter you hear off in the distance? That’s the avalanche-rumblings of a top-heavy to do list burying a teacher alive.
For my school, this is our last week with students. My patience is thin and my energy is low. Nope. Let me clarify. My patience isn’t simply worn thin, it’s as holy as the jeans the kids wear these days. Or their tired homework excuses. Or Jason Vorhees’ hockey mask.
Take for example, the disrespectful sophomore and her twelve-girl posse of pajama-clad renegades this morning while I was on Hall Monitor Duty. She and her crew were ready for a face off. Over pajamas. (Walmart memes seem to legitimize bad choices for immature minds everywhere.) Now I’m here to tell ya — don’t wrangle with a teacher wearing her end-of-year patience on her face like a hockey mask. Back away. Back the puck away. Needless to say, when the fracas cleared, the nightie brigade had received eight long hours in an ISS cubicle – the school system’s version of a penalty box.
As for my low energy level – let’s just say it has officially sagged lower than half the male population’s pants in our classrooms. Which reveals a lot (about my energy and their boxer shorts.) Those pants hang in gravity-defying fashion and have way more tenacity than I do these days. What’s left of my energy has pooled around my feet, hobbling me with malaise. It won’t circulate through my central nervous system, no matter how much black coffee or green veggies I ingest. It sits there, giving me just enough ballast to keep me upright – kind of like one of those weighted punching bags we all had as kids. You know, the Bozo kind. Which is pretty much what teachers become during the last two weeks of school: weighted, air-filled clown dolls. We bob back up as each new final-days left-hook makes contact:
Fourteenth three-hour standardized test in a two-week period — POW!
Multiple students with multiple missing assignments begging for extra credit —BAM!
34 bodies in 92-degree heat with 80 percent humidity and 0 air conditioning —THWAP!
4 copy jams in 3.2 minutes — WHAM!
Numerous lost planning periods with no time to grade, or copy, or pee (pee in your shoe, it adds ballast) — WHOMP!
Post-planning calendar with an all-day professional development on my birthday (BYOB: Bring Your Own Ballpoint) – BOOM!
Most days I’m mostly dazed by the hits. Occasionally, I’m aggravated. Some days I’m beyond aggravated. Today. Is. One. Of. Those. Days.
I simply must vent. In surgery, it would be called drilling burr holes. They do it to relieve pressure beneath the surface — so you don’t die. This month, the pressure’s been building with each successive sucker punch. So this blog entry is my specialized air drill — so I don’t die. And no one else does either.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still love teaching. From August through April, it’s a great gig. And the summers are fabulous. It’s May that I have issues with. In May, the darker side of education rears its ugly head: the politics of testing. Testing rules with a heavy fist, and plays on a teacher’s fears and exhaustion. Are they ready? Am I ready? Did I do enough? Did they do enough? Do they know enough? Do I? Did I read the instructions carefully enough? Did they listen carefully enough? Are their bubbles completely and carefully filled in? Are my thought bubbles completely and carefully concealed? (Because if my poker face isn’t on… Whew!)
So, yes, the dark forces conspire against us in the month of May. As teachers, whether we’re Star Wars fans or not, we NEED the fourth to be with us — and the other 30 days, too. It is the longest, bleakest month of them all. We are road-weary and knocked about. We have short fuses, blown gaskets, and dried up fuel tanks. That’s not the air conditioning we feel, wafting toward us in stale puffs. That’s the dying breath of another school year meeting its necessary (and long-drawn-out) end. And we teachers, we’re hanging on like rusty bumpers in a demolition derby…
Until that final bell rings, those graduation caps get tossed, those end of year check offs find initials. Then is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer…
And I sleep for the first 48 hours… if the universe (and twin sons) shine favorably upon my weary soul.