Yesterday was the final day with students.  We can unofficially close out the 2010-11 school year; unofficial only because my colleagues and I still have to show up to work until June 20th.  I only had one more final to give yesterday, and surprisingly all my students showed up.  I only say this because this particular class, a class I’ve written about before, has had a sketchy attendance record.  There are a few students who pretty much wrapped up their year months ago.  They knew they would be leaving and so made no effort to come to my first period class, and do any work.  Today they showed up.  One got called down to the office for some kind of trouble, another remained in class and took the test, and the last – well, the last one remained physically in my room, but did not take the test.

This particular student just put his head down.  I asked him if he was going to make an attempt at the final, and he said no.  I entered a zero into the grade book, and then exchanged his blank bubble sheet for a Rubik’s Cube.  His face immediately lit up.  I whispered: solve it.

What will happen to him next year?  He’s not returning to our school; his grades just weren’t good enough, and he had become very problematic.  He’s not a bad human by any stretch. My guess is he came to this school severely unprepared for the caliber of work he would be expected to do, and he failed one too many times.  Failing repeatedly would wear on anyone.  We offered him supports, made phone calls home, spoke to him individually and collectively.  There were safety nets all around this kid, but somehow he still found a rip and fell through.  Next year he’ll be in a more traditional setting without the pressures of a rigorous curriculum, no dress code to worry about really, and he’ll be surrounded by more of his friends.  And, he’s got football.  We don’t have sports at our school, and trust me when I say that not having athletic teams has hurt our abilities to create any kind of school spirit.  Kids just attend our school.  They’re not really part of it. Not yet anyhow.  Although I’m not particularly fond of this kid, I do wish him well.  I hope he finds his way somehow, and makes something of himself.

As for the rest of my Goonies, I’m pleased with most of the work they’ve done and the human beings into which they are becoming. There were some glitches and ugly spots along the way, I like some more than I like others, but in the end it’s all good.

This is my second year with these kids.  Next year, I’ll have them all again. And the following year, the year they graduate, I’ll have them for the fourth year in a row.  It’s a unique situation, but one that I love.  In a traditional setting, while I would have gotten to know my students, it would never have been with the depth and breadth that I know this particular group. It’s certainly a unique circumstance, and as of yesterday, we are halfway through their high school careers.  I once had a reflective piece of writing published in a newspaper about how every September I’m a skeptic with my new crop of students.  The new group never seems to measure up to the class from the year before.  It was comfortable with the old class, familiar. What will happen when the class of 2013 says their good-byes? It will be hard to let this group go.  I guess I don't have to worry about that for another two years. This frightens me.

This was also my last year as a traditional English teacher. I honestly can’t say I’m sad about it. Yeah, I know I spent $60k on an MA from NYU in English Education – how can I forget with my nearly $500 student loan payment every month – but what I have realized over the course of these past seven years is that the joy I find in teaching is less about the content and much more about the relationships I create with my students.  In the aforementioned pricey graduate school program I completed, I was adamant about wanting to be an inspiration to my students.  I wanted to be able to inspire them to be greater more open-minded, risk-taking human beings.  I can do that with English, and I can do it just as well with Creative Writing. The beauty in teaching Creative Writing, is that now I’ve gained autonomy over my classroom, and autonomy for this gal, dear readers, is highly valued. I don’t do well in boxes, and I don’t do well with rules.  I also get to become my students’ cheerleader as I help them get into college and figure out possible career paths in the other new course I'm teaching. Next year remains promising...

On a sad note, a colleague is being bounced out of our building and into a less desirable 50/50 split between two schools. The person replacing her has more seniority and was furloughed from another school.  Because she had the more desirable job, staying full-time in one spot, she was the one who lost out. She’ll teach half-time at one middle school, and half-time at another.  She becomes itinerant.  She was nothing but tears yesterday afternoon and I felt deeply for her. Seven years ago, I was in her very same position. I’d been hired as a full-time teacher, it was my very first year, I fell in love with my colleagues, the school where I was working, and just a couple weeks before the end of the year, I was displaced. I was being bumped by a teacher with more seniority returning from a leave of absence. Seven years ago I was all tears.  And I continued to cry for several months afterwards. There’s nothing anyone can say to you at that point, and whatever consoling they attempt, compares nothing to the amount of FUCK-OFFS you want to lay out into the world.  So to this colleague, a young girl, I told her only that I understood and to find a way to get through it. I only offered validation and affirmed that it does suck and yes, it is a shitty situation.

Our little campus is slowly growing, and our learning curve remains steep. We remain a tight-knit staff with plenty of moxie and dedication. I still believe we have the potential for greatness, but it is going to come at a price. This end of the school year somehow has come around in an anticlimactic fashion. It’s just another day – except there are no students. I have discovered new friends (yeah, Z, you totally rock, and yes, forever friends), and have deepened ties with others (P, my barometer, my vault).

Seven years in the books.
I’m still happy I’m a teacher.

And as a gift to myself for the seventh-inning-career stretch, I bought a subscription to The New Yorker. I know, right? Just trying to rev up my sophistication meter, and read good reads. Who knows, maybe someday my words will appear in the magazine...

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