It must be that time of year.
We are nearing spring break, and our school just completed its annual Diversity Day program — a huge success, but one that took an extraordinary amount of energy from teachers to coordinate, plan and implement. Our union is also in negotiations with the administration, and not surprisingly, issues of tenure, the glass ceiling, working conditions, and teacher autonomy are under discussion.
I walked by a board member talking with a member of the administrative team in the cafeteria and they were discussing the “sea change” coming for teachers (both men spend much time in school, but no time in classrooms!).
All of this is to say that by the time I reached my last teaching period today, I was a bit on edge.
At the start of class, I always check in — homework for the night, what is coming up, questions about where we’ve been. Today, after a few questions that pushed my buttons because they were things I’d discussed all of last week, I was frustrated that my students were not paying attention, and they were relying too much on me to repeat endlessly the same information to them. I thought they were using the time to distract me and to prolong our check in time needlessly. Finally, someone commented that he could not turn in the extra credit spring break reading assignment on the Monday after break because he would be in Peru. A chorus of voices chimed in — “Oh, me, too, I’ll be in Mexico.”
“Yeah, I need an extension. I’ll be in Aruba.”
“Oh, I’m only going to Florida, bummer.”
The chatter about spring break destinations (and the accompanying expectation that I would change my extra credit deadline to accommodate these extravagant trips) sent me fully and completely over the edge.
I don’t often raise my voice in class, but today, I shouted, “You know what, just stay in Peru! Okay, just don’t come back and then you won’t have to worry about the extra credit.”
Silence engulfed the class. I burned.
We made it through class, and right before dismissal, I apologized to everyone for losing my cool. They all looked at me uncomprehendingly, as if they were used to adults flipping out and couldn’t understand why I was apologizing. The student who unintentionally pushed me off the cliff stopped on his way out of the room. “I’ve seen worse,” he said. “That wasn’t really so bad, and we probably deserved it.”