Tomorrow’s a new day…

Last night was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with my mom and her sisters; I sometimes forget how much I enjoy them, because I don’t see them all that often. Now that Spring Break is almost over, I’m left with a long list of things I haven’t gotten done yet (which is way top par for the course) and today was a lost day.

Lost days are those days where I don’t have to work and I end up sleeping for most of the day—half of the time I’m dealing with a low-grade migraine and slowly ramping anxiety. Thanks to the miracles of modern medication I don’t have nearly as many lost days as I once did, but I still find myself in a small shame spiral after one. The next day I usually make. Point to do something and to get out of the house.

I can’t help but wonder how many other people have the same kind of days. For those who do share my lost days I hope you too can remember that we get to start each day fresh Well, fresh with a side of dealing with everything that didn’t get done. Such is life.


¢ Same Change ¢

School is about a person’s ability to complete and turn in work. Our grading systems should be about improving and applying skill sets which is what assignments used to be a little more geared toward.

It’s hard to know whether a student has learned knowledge and learned how to apply it appropriately when they take pictures of someone else’s test or have someone else write their paper or the ten thousand other ways they act out “it’s not cheating if I don’t get caught.”

So often, I want to throw my hands up and scream, “are you learning anything?”

I’m afraid that the answer too often revolves around pride in “I haven’t read/finished/opened a book for this class” or the excuse “writing is just too hard.”

Do they really think ignorance is this awesome badge? Quite a few of them have apathy tattooed on every fiber of their soul when it comes to school (especially the required classes). A solid few love to see how far they can push, how much they can get away with—they speak a different language even though we use essentially the same words. And there are some who learn, who enjoy school, who enjoy my teaching style which keeps me going some days.

Just to be clear, I’m not the teacher to end all teachers. I’d like to think I’ve done more good than harm in twenty years, but I cringingly remember all the rookie mistakes. I gratefully remember each student who taught me not to judge and to watch how I say things and gave me faith that every student can grow up to be a decent person who learns from their mistakes and takes care of their responsibilities. When I look into the mirror these days I know that I can be painfully annoying for some kids, that my life lessons or active reading modeling comes across as so much babbling. I know I need to get things graded and back sooner.

On a personal level I need to stop trying to be funny, to get out more, to hoard my money against the next difficulty.

I didn’t learn the value of outlines until college. I hated dissecting poetry until college. I rarely put myself “out there” before college. Most of my kids won’t go straight to a four-year university. Some are already working full time; some have figured out the trade they want to pursue; some are uncertain and feel like they have to take random college classes until they figure it out which leads to massive debt. And some kids are graduating high school with a two-year transfer degree or they have picked schools for specific programs that have reliable job opportunities.

The world is ever-changing and some complaints are never going to change—school isn’t going to be great for everyone; we don’t always know what we learned until time has passed; kids these days are no worse than kids thirty years ago, they just live in a different time. I don’t know what challenges really eat at each kid or what they face outside of my classroom. I try to remember those things.

My goals for my students haven’t really changed: think critically, communicate effectively, learn from success and failure, be true to yourself.

Stay True. Be Adaptable.

The first school shooting I remember as a teacher was in October 1997 in Mississippi. I heard about it on the news that night and realized it was easily something that could happen in the rural Oregon town I lived in where teachers were warned not to have tests on opening day for deer season. I moved across the state to another town and for the first couple of years students were reminded over the announcements not to have guns in their rigs on school property. As school and mass shootings began to accelerate in frequency, security and consequences also amped up at schools.

Our school, like many, encouraged students not to walk out today. Instead our administration is encouraging students to practice kindness as part of “What’s Your 17?” Our administration has been trying to build a sense of community and positive change over the last few years by implementing positive reinforcement through recognizing students who go a little above and beyond. As far as I know, none of our staff mocked students or told them they couldn’t leave and we had a few students who walked out—talking to some of those kids afterwards was interesting because they walked out for a variety of reasons.

Some kids support gun control, many don’t. Some kids didn’t want to be political, they wanted to show respect for the people who lost their lives a month ago. Some kids wanted to show support for the people who survived. None of the kids I talked to were just trying to get out of class or disrespect anyone. Yet they received blowback from adults on various social media platforms.

I want my students to figure out what they think and why they think those things. I want my students to take in new information, assess its bias/value/source, and apply that information to their lives and opinions. They need to be adaptable and stay true to themselves which is a tough and lifelong balancing act. At some point they need to pull away and start making decisions—that point depends on their level of maturity and how they’ve been raised.

I go to work every day hoping my students will make good choices and stay safe. I go to work solid in the decision I made over twenty years ago to protect my students and prepare them for the rest of their lives. But last month’s shooting in Florida was different from those that had come before it. This time I had students who had watched videos posted by survivors. This time anyone who wanted to could find a way to watch it. Between those videos and the way the survivors are channeling their grief, something has changed. It’s too soon to tell what and how, but our kids have a right to feel safe at school.