In the midst of my celebrating and "yahooo"-ing because it's FINALLY summer, and this very long, VERY weird year is finally over, a lot of things are running through my brain. Some are personal reflections on the ups and downs I have been through this year, and others are about professional topics. Still others are about the more humanistic side of my job, which, in spite of the data and the paperwork and the meetings, and in spite of what the politicians and the administrators want me to care about most, is STILL the most important part of my job, commas and question marks be damned.
In no set order of chronology or importance, here are some of the things that will go down in my personal history as being a big part of the 2012-2013 school year. My dad's illness and recovery. The death of my sweet, sweet Kizzy. The welcoming into our little family of our cute little fuzzball-turned-demon-hellcat, Goombay, and our bassett hound-turned-freight train Baxter. Changing and developing friendships and a new BFF/sidekick, without whose support and encouragement I wouldn't have made it through the year. (There's your shout-out, Missy!) The tragic and sudden loss of a dear, dear friend. Newfound inspiration to write and, after much turmoil, to broadcast it to the world. The list goes on and on, and I'm afraid that I'm leaving out something monumental, but oh well...suffice it to say it was topsy-turvy.
Professionally, I was met with some challenges as well. A new administration, new procedural "things" dealing with teacher evaluation and increased impossibility rigor in testing standards, and just a different, different way of doing things. Added responsibilities of advising the drama club and directing a play on my own. My "cheese" being moved all the hell over the place (that's for you, Jackie and Bill). The interesting new perspective on budgets and pay raises and how things are done in this little neck of the woods. I could go on and on here, too. The point is, I survived it all, and came out smelling like a rose...or at the very least, a dandelion.
So, I'm not mourning the end to this school year too much. I'm pretty damn glad it's over, actually. I need some time to recoup, to gather my wits, to relax and enjoy hanging out with my kid and the rest of the family. I really need some time to do laundry and mop some floors. All that aside, though...through this whole year, in spite of dealing with the unexpected and the uncertainty, one really important thing that my job provided to me was a degree of certainty and routine. It's nice to have a schedule, a reason to get up and get motivated...it's even nice to have a mile-long list of things to do that can be accomplished within a day or a week and checked off. Things at home aren't always that concrete or measurable, and I started thinking this week about how that is for the kids.
Kids, especially middle-schoolers, will tell you to no end that they hate school, and many celebrate the end of it as much as (well, maybe not as much) the teachers do. But if you look carefully, there are those kids for whom the end of the school year is a panic button. Some of my kids were sad today and not ashamed of it. They told me they loved being on our team and in 7th grade. Others wanted hugs, or their yearbooks signed; some promised to email over the summer. And there were some who were uncharacteristically quiet.
I'd been thinking all week about those "fringe" benefits that school provides, in addition to a stellar education. We provide certainty, when so, so many of our kids live in chaotic situations. We provide meals, when many of our students go home to empty cupboards. We provide socialization, when some of the kids will spend their summers in front of a television in an empty house while their parents work. We provide structure and routine...and safety, when a heartbreaking number of our kids are making do without. We hope we provide motivation and work ethic, when fewer and fewer of our students come with those instilled values.
Needless to say, I've started off my summer doing what I do best...worrying. Worrying about whether the pep talks and reading materials I gave my struggling readers will stay in their memory past the first episode of Spongebob. Worrying about the students that I know don't have much food in their homes. Worrying about the students whose parents don't even wake them up and get them going on school days, much less in the summer time. Worrying that the kids who worked so hard only to be given a score of "Fail" on their SOL report card are going to be discouraged heading into the next school year. And most of all, worrying that some of them are going to fall victim to those facets of their lives that make them panic and not celebrate on the last day of school.
There's only so much we can do. And I worry it's not enough. And if there were ever a viable, logical reason for year-round schooling (wait, did I just say that?), that would be the one.
Happy summer to all of my coworkers, and to my students.