January is usually the worst month for me, as a teacher.
You are just coming off of two weeks of good food, great drinks, time with the family, and sleeping on your own schedule.
The weather in the Pacific Northwest in January leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you desire rain.
It’s dark when you leave for work and it’s dark when you get home. Daylight only occurs when you’re inside the cinder-block building, standing under fluorescent bulbs and chewing on the stale air that’s been sitting in the room since the mid-80s.
And more than anything, the kids do not want to be there. They just spent two weeks eating, drinking (hopefully not beer), hanging out with their families, sleeping, going outside, getting wet, staying dry, or just doing WHATEVER THEY WANTED.
Most kids don’t want to do math. So January is a tough time for these guys, which in turn makes it a tough time for the teachers.
I avoided January by taking paternity leave. I really couldn’t have planned it any better. We had our daughter right at the start of winter break, so I had two weeks with my family and then an additional month of leave.
It was glorious.
So when I returned to my job as a professional math wizard this Tuesday, I realized something.
I don’t have good students.
I have AMAZING students.
School starts at 7:30, and I arrive a little before 7:00. This requires waking up at 5:30. Needless to say, I am a zombie for the first few hours (sorry, first and second periods). I try to have a sense of humor to start the day, but when you’re among the walking dead, there’s not a lot of joy in the wee hours.
When I returned, the very first kid who walked into my room ran over and gave me a hug. And after that, kids were all smiles when they saw me. Lots of questions and requests to see pictures and so much curiosity. Lots of requests for specific details. Some of which I couldn’t answer without having their parents sign a consent form.
Teenagers don’t seem to be easily excited by things that aren’t in their own personal microcosm. If it isn’t relevant to their interests, they don’t pay much attention.
But I showed pictures of Lela and almost all of the kids were watching and listening and asking questions. Even the boys. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I gave the guys a talk about how it wouldn’t upset me if they ignored the picture show, and almost all of them still stayed engaged.
In terms of classroom business, I returned and it was like I had never left. The kids had not seen me in a month and a half, but when I stepped into my “teaching spot”, they got quiet and we got down to business.
A lot of this is due to my fantastic long-term sub, my friend Marla. She respected my desire to use the time to bond with my family and rarely ever messaged me for help. She planned, taught, assessed, tutored, and listened. Several of the students opened up to her about life at home, which takes a lot of bravery and a strong relationship between teacher and pupil. That says a lot about what she did.
But the students also deserve some credit. As do their parents. They made it easy on Marla, easy on each other, and easy on me.
Thanks, kids. Thank you for being amazing while I was at home with my family. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to spend time with these beautiful ladies.