This is always a strange time of year for me. Colleagues in the Northern hemisphere are in the process of winding down and preparing for their long break, while down here in the Southern regions teachers are up to their eyeballs in the busiest time of their year.
Emails, FB posts and Tweets can leave my head spinning as I try to work out which messages come from where. You would think that we worked not only in different time zones but also on separate planets.
Yet every now and again I am reminded that no matter where we are in the world, the challenges we face are exactly the same.
It is the End of Something.
Whether it is the year or the semester, we have reached the end of it. This means the following:
1. Evaluating and Reporting.
2. We are all tired.
3. Students are all tired.
4. The lure of ‘babysitting’ starts to sound like a good idea.
5. The internal battle between ‘what we want to do’ and what ‘we can do’ gives us a headache.
Whether it is the year or the semester, we have reached the end of it. We Teach Well.
Evaluating and Reporting.
For those who teach mixed senior grades, end of year (or semester 2) reporting generally happens in stages. The Year 12s finish first and then a couple of weeks later the Year 11s, followed by… etc. You get the picture. Marking all the English scripts is manageable because it is spread out.
Mid-year (end of semester1) is not like that. It is crazy. Everything is due at the same time and all reporting is due on the same date. If you have a full teaching load of English subjects the marking and reporting load is ..(insert your favourite adjective here..)
In both scenarios the process is complicated by the fact that we are still face to face with students all day. We still need to produce valuable lessons which will engage and extend the precious, tired ( see below) minds in our care.
And we need to avoid losing our minds in the process.
I admit I don’t have the answer to this. There are some strategies we can use and more of that a little later, but a clear solution is beyond me. I do think that there could be a place for pre-service teachers in schools during this time but that would need some sound research.
We are all Tired.
Given that there are only 24 hours in a day and we are working 25 of them, and we have already been tap-dancing non-stop for 10 weeks or more, we are tired.
Sleep and rest has moved from being a necessary physical requirement to being something we dream about as we fall into a coma in the middle of the 250th script we have marked this week.
It is hard to be your scintillating and passionate teacher self in this state. Honestly you are happy if you manage not to nod off in the middle of the oral presentations your Year 10s are delivering.
The only consolation comes in knowing you are not alone. This is a huge community and your colleagues all over the world are in exactly the same boat.
Students are all Tired.
Whether we think they are working hard or not, it has been a long trek for the students as well. Those of us who are parents know that it gets harder to get the kids moving in the morning as the year or semester winds down.
Whether it is schoolwork, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities or simply too much X-Box, the students are tired and ready for a break.
So just when we are at our lowest energy levels the students require more from us in order to keep them engaged.
And, no matter what anyone says there is an absolute truth in teaching. Students will mirror their teacher’s level of enthusiasm.
So just when we are at our lowest energy levels the students require more from us in order to keep them engaged. We Teach Well
It was not until I took a break from teaching that I had an epiphany. I needed to plan for the end of the semester at the beginning. This state happens every year. It is one of the few ‘givens’ in our profession. So preparing activities that were highly student-centered and did not depend on me ‘performing,’ and having them ready for the end of semester made a huge difference.
This is the time to embrace their obsession with the digital world. Class Facebook pages, twitter, online journals can all be used effectively here. And because you have spent all that time building relationships with the students you know which ones will lead well.
The Lure of ‘babysitting.’
There is nothing wrong with DVDs. Indeed if we are not using visual representations in the English classroom in the 21C we are failing our students.
However, the movies and media we use need to be part of a plan. It needs to match with something we have been learning in a meaningful way. It can’t just be filler.
Rest assured, while students will not go home and rave about the wonderful lesson you spent hours preparing, they are very likely to go home and tell their parents that all they did all day was watch movies.
But by far the worst result of giving in to the lure of ‘babysitting’ is that it leaves you as a teacher feeling unfulfilled. Less than, inadequate. Just when you most need to feel that what you do has value.
‘I became a teacher so I could fill my day and collect a large salary,’ was said by no teacher, ever.We Teach Well
The Internal Battle
There are many reasons why someone becomes a teacher. However, ‘I became a teacher so I could fill my day and collect a large salary,’ was said by no teacher, ever.
Good English teachers are passionate, committed people who truly believe that education and the studying of literature can make the future lives of their students better. They want every lesson to be engaging and challenging and they constantly search out new ways to allow this to be true. However, when we go back to the situation above in point 2, we realize that there are just not enough hours in the day.
So we do the best we can. Preparing at the beginning for the end is one strategy. There will be others. If your school supports faculty ’team’ teaching you know how beneficial that can be.
The most important thing you can do is to stop beating yourself up. Keep focused on what you have achieved and remember that you are only human.