The worst thing about teaching, in my opinion, is the fact that you very rarely get a chance to take a breather and reflect back on what you have just done. The reality is that you always have to be thinking ahead to the next thing, and so, in lieu of vacations or breaks, the job of a teacher is never done.

And when you get behind, you’re almost perpetually playing catch-up.

I missed my Friday/end-of-week post, which is almost just as well. Friday could have gone better in a lot of ways: the eighth graders butted heads with me, resulting in a lecture from me to them, and the seniors had a party, which was fun but ended up being fairly unorganized for the first class and ultimately somewhat of a headache. The juniors were undoubtedly my high point; bringing in the guitar was absolutely a good idea, if nothing other than the fact that it got students a little more excited about what was happening in our classroom (some students were actually a little irritated that they were gone on Friday and had missed it!). Even that, however, was a little tarnished by my lack of foresight in remembering that Fridays have activity periods – some groups meet at the last 15-20 minutes of the period – and I subsequently lost a large portion, possibly half, of one of my junior classes.

So I came and worked this last weekend, but not enough: my oldest son’s been sick since Thursday or so, and my wife has been fighting a similar illness, so my attention has been a little scattered. The research papers are not progressing quickly enough, and I don’t want to get on a crunch. I have a week on those, with an extended weekend coming up for Casimir Pulaski Day (God bless the Poles in Chicago!).

Today, however, was better. My eighth graders worked much better today, in part because they have a movie poster project that is much less, well, boring (than grammar) and more self-directed, and the one student who I have had several problems with was very cordial to me today. The juniors were pretty good, and we had one moment in the second section that made my day. Some song had been mentioned (I’m framing Dickinson and Whitman in the idea of songs as a way of expressing the human experience), and I said that I’d embarrassed myself too much to sing it. A student who is not always a great contributor popped in immediately with the very profound (and I presume original) statement, “If you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well dance on the way down.” I was so struck by the statement that I wrote it on a side board that doesn’t get much use and put a box around it with the word “SAVE” next to it.

This actually served another inadvertent purpose: one of my problem seniors (the one who said that their goal in the class is my tears), for reasons still unknown to me, decided to go over and erase the quote from the side board. I caught them in the act and gave a detention on the spot – my first one! This student had been pressing their luck for quite some time, and this act of defiance pushed me over the edge. Despite claims that they hadn’t seen the prominent “SAVE” written by the quote, I maintained my position on the matter. My co-op was out of the room, unfortunately, so she didn’t get to witness my little victory, but she was fairly congratulatory as well after the fact since she has been pressing me to confront some of these problems head-on. I frankly don’t like confrontation in general, just by my nature, but I was angry enough today to handle things quickly and decisively. It was a good feeling.

So, now that I’ve spent plenty of time that could have been used for sleeping, I am going to retire for the evening (morning?). I have observation tomorrow, and I’m fairly well prepared, I think, although I will certainly do some double-checking of that tomorrow. I very much want to keep improving on the areas that I am most deficient in, most notably classroom and time management, and tomorrow is another chance. I just need to get ahead of the game – once I can figure that out, then I think things will come a little more smoothly.