Everyone says this, but you never truly believe you’ll ever be in your 40s. And you certainly never believe you will look at 31 years since your senior year in high school. It feels like yesterday, although I havent seen most of my class since graduation (I’ve skipped the reunions, although I enjoyed high school – waht is the point?). Some day soon I will (hopefully) say, I can’t believe I am in my 80s. The sad part is, when I was a teen I *never* thought I’d be as old as 40 (that was an eternity away) but now at 49 I can definitely see 80 on the horizon.
I was worried Daughter L was oversleeping today but it turns out it is senior skip day at her school :). I remember my senior skip day, 31 years ago (:() — I played golf. THat was just a few weeks after Jack Nicklaus had surprised the golf world by winning the Masters in his 40s. That was the year I loved golf so much I golfed 3 times a week (walked on as a single on Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and I was starting to play well enough that the golf coach asked if I’d consider playing golf, not realizing I was a senior. Funny how much I loved it then – I don’t feel that way at all now. I don’t know how you can have soo much passion for something then none at all.
When I was a high school teacher, I tried to lead by example. So, if my students were doing something, I did the same activity. For example, if my students were watching a movie, I watched the movie (even if I’d seen it 100 times before). If my students were working on a class project, I was working with them on the group project (by going group to group and sitting with each group). And if they had silent reading, I read a book too. Never ever did I grade papers or do prep for another class while class was in session (as my mentor teacher said, if I am telling the students something is important but then not doing it myself, I’m sending the wrong message – so i tried to model the same behavior, and I feel like it helped me build bonds with my students). But I am thinking of one time in particular during silent reading, when I was reading along with my students but the book I was reading was hilarious (it might have been Confederacy of Dunces) so I kept chuckling; I noticed (out of the corner of my eye, since a teacher always tries to keep the peripheral vision going for obvious reasons 🙂 ) the students exchanging smiles then one finally said, not unkindly, “We can’t concentrate because you are laughing.” Then the entire class laughed. I loved that moment. It was a tender moment and thinking of it makes me miss my students. Those students were 16 at the time, and would all be in their 30s today. Wild to think about. But that moment is frozen in time in my memory.
We attended a community (rotary) luncheon where Daughter L was awarded student of the month. She is one of those great teens who doesn’t get a lot of attention because she is low maintenance (but on the other hand all the attention she gets is generally positive), so it was nice that she got some attention yesterday, and also she gave a thoughtful speech where she talked about the perspective she’s learned in school. I was happy for her, that all the blood sweat and tears she puts into school was recognized yesterday.
Another student who was there (was student of the month at another school) was impressive: she gave a thoughtful and heartfelt speech, wants to enter the Army or Marine Corps since her family all did that, then attend law school and become a District Attorney to give a voice to all people. I loved that. I hope she keeps that passion.
I loved high school. My mom and dad were yuppies working their way up the corporate ladder so were fairly high strung, but I loved wearing jeans and tennis shoes to school, hanging out with friends and peers during the day, then returning home in the midafternoon to eat, play basketball and hang out with friends. I was pretty savvy with saving money and liked to work double shifts on weekends so I had the week to just hang out. I need to get back to that again. To simple feelings. To getting to work early, going with the flow, then cutting out on time to hang out at home. How do I get back there? Is it possible? I hope so… It seems like I should be able to manage work so it does not consume my thoughts all the time.
When I taught, I taught block periods, meaning I had kids for 90+ minutes at a time. I loved it, as it gave me a lot of time to build flow and to incorporate different things into a single class. Plus, it also gave a natural life-like flow to class versus a choppiness, and one of the great benefits to that is I got a chance ot know my classes and students better on a human level. Also, one of the things I learned the hard way was that every single day the lesson or class activity had to be interesting, *especially* in a block class, or I was screwed (teens forced to sit through a boring lesson for 90 minutes can do interesting things to keep themselves occupied, especially when a non-intimidating teacher like me is in front of the class 🙂 ). Anyway, one of things i loved was having an idea the night before, and incorporating it into the next day’s lesson. For example, in Stranger Things there were a lot of allusions to various 1980s films including ET. So what I might do if I were teaching English today was show 2 minutes of the bike scene from ET and then 2 minutes from the bike scene of STranger Things, then ask the students to compare the two. I would then explain that this was a type of allusion, that Stranger Things was alluding to (or pointing to or borrowing from) ET; there is a 10% chance a student would ask about allusion versus pirating, which could lead to interesting conversation and a secondary/smaller lesson. I always found that video – even just a 2 minute clip was a great way to teach the less tangible concepts in literature like symbolism, theme, allusion, etc. Inevitably when I did this there would be one or two C or D students who would say, “Oooohhhh.” Anyway, I always loved moments like that, where I could quickly illustrate something with an interesting or fresh medium in less than 10 minutes. I miss those moments 🙂
Daughter L had a few books to read and a major essay (i.e. over 7 pages to write) that were assigned over the summer and due before her first class starts today at 7 AM. It is madness that we burn our kids out before they even start the school year. Was she assigned the paper over a month ago? Yes. But we were traveling (she traveled for 3 weeks with our family, plus 3 weeks with a school service trip) plus after taking an AP course last summer and having major assignments due over Winter and Spring breaks last year, she needed a break. Plus, most human beings — especially teens — will procrastinate.
I keep waiting for this age of homework — which is now over 20 years long – to end. We have been reading for years now about how the kids have too much homework, and how that much homework does not increase learning and hampers quality of life. But if anything it gets worse. And this weekend it burned my daughter out before she even starts her first day of school. It is madness.