Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's "Graduation" Morning In Teacher America

Chas: I've had a rough year, dad.
Royal: I know you have, Chassie.
--Wes Anderson, "The Royal Tenenbaums"

Every May we have this cheap imitation "Graduation" ceremony for our 8th Graders and it's stupid, and fake, and hard to endure. It's great seeing the 8th graders celebrating and all, but as a teacher/adult you just kinda want to put each of them in a headlock, give them a noogie and say "but you haven't even got to the fun part yet!". And then you want to parcel out incredibly boring "life lessons", and important things they should supposedly remember their entire lives. And you stop yourself most of the time, but once or twice you find yourself doing it, and it's embarrassing and awkward all around. Then you go home and remember that these 8th Graders still have your class for another week or so, and you wonder "why the Hell was 'Graduation' on May 14th, exactly?" And so do they.

So yeah, 8th Grade "Graduation" is pretty stupid.

But it or something has got me thinking this May 14th, "Graduation", Seven Days of School Left to Go Morning...this has been a hard year. In some ways the hardest year of the 16 or so I've been doing this.

And I wonder why that is. It can't be my actual job...compared with teaching "twice-exceptional" students back in 1995 at Van Buren MS during the height of the "war zone" Surenos 13 madness in the aftermath of a strangely progressive principal who had just ran off to Florida and left a "progressive" school with no bells, 13 different student schedules arranged in 13 different teaching teams (all of whom seemed to hate each other) and a location at Louisiana and Trumbull that seemed to scream out "drive-by shooting", my job now is pretty darn skate. Easy. Perfect.

Far more perfect, for example, than my three years trying to save the world, one Friday at 4:00 p.m. staff meeting at a time, teaching at a well-known, but probably best left unnamed charter school. Compared to the frenzied, every teacher on pedagogical crystal meth, environment at that place, my current employ seems more tranquil than a remote mountain lake on a calm winter's day.

So why was this year so tough? Maybe it wasn't, and I'm just "burnt out" from the routine of it all. Maybe I'll wake up the day after the school year finally ends and immediately think "Hey that really wasn't bad at all..what the Hell was I complaining about?"


But sitting here, early on Seven Days of School Left to Go Morning, it's difficult to imagine that possibility. Frankly, it's hard to even imagine that May 23rd, the first day of Summer vacation, will ever come. And I wonder why that is.

A few tentative "theories" running around my head as to why:
  • After, for years, successfully avoiding any connection, interaction or thoughts whatsoever about outside my classroom things like school policy and education funding, I found myself getting involved in soul-crushing things like creating next year's schedule. I am drawn to these wonky education topics like a moth to a giant, multi-story high inferno. Like a June Bug to a 1,000,000 volt bug zapper. For years I wisely resisted, but this year, for whatever reason, the glow of the zapper was too strong. I feel zapped.
  • All this personal stuff involving death and disease happened and continues to happen, stuff I've already bored readers with and will spare readers from at this time. Even stuff I haven't already bored you with, and am tempted to bore you with, but have the good sense to see both the grinding ennui running through the enterprise, as well as the simple fact that, yeah, every body/animal gets sick and dies, eventually. Dem the rules, but at times it's just hard not to think the rules suck.
  • This ongoing, and admittedly boring, saga between me and APS and the State Department of Education in which I am being told I can't teach a Film Class because the class has "Regular Education" students in it, and I only have a "Special Education" license. So after 16 or so years teaching "Gifted" kids I have to go back to CNM and get an "alternative license" in "Regular Education". I realize that to a non-public school teacher nothing in the two sentences above makes any sense. Trust me, it doesn't any sense to the teachers among us, either. The most aggravating thing about this saga is that everybody I have talked to about it: non-teachers, teachers, administrators, Union folks, District Human Resources people...nobody thinks it makes any sense. But we're all not doing anything about it. Why can't a "Special Education" teacher teach "Regular Education" kids if qualified to teach the subject? "Regular Education" teachers teach "Special Education" kids all the time. Insert brain into hamster-wheel. Spin wheel. Ad infinitum.
  • An aforementioned little dalliance contemplating employ in Leipzig, Germany. Reasons to work in Germany: (besides the whole Europe thing?) see above. Number of times the above has made me question my decision to stay at my current employ: 5 billion and counting.
  • Finally, maybe this little blog has been a partial cause. Back around August I had the kooky idea to spend this school year focusing BB more directly than ever on the K-12 world and working experience. I'd skip some of the sophomoric satire and try to write "serious" stuff about educational issue. Probably a big mistake. For one thing, I suck at writing "serious" stuff. Let's face it. B-O-R-I-N-G and not terribly informative. A bad combination. Much easier to just make fun of Marty Chavez and stuff. Far less soul-crushing as well. Satirically slamming stupid things is fish-in-a-barrel compared with actually proposing things to improve/change the stupid things. Especially when it comes to K-12 education. In retrospect, it's been a setup for trite, insipid writing and large holes in my workroom wall from my head banging against it. Time to go back to making fun of Marty Chavez, the oxymoron that is the New Mexico Republican Party and such. Whew...I feel better already.
So that's the report this Seven Days of School Left to Go Morning. "Graduation" morning. It's been a hard year, but tonight I'm sure to find a few smiles looking out from my "backstage" position at all the 8th Graders ready (and some not-quite-ready) to grow up and get to the fun part of life. Here's hoping they are just now getting to the fun part. Each and every one of them.

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