The alarm on my watch went off, buzzing and beeping on my curio cabinet safely out of reach from me hitting the snooze button and staying in bed. I was snapped out of a dream about being at Disneyland and going down the last drop in Splash Mountain and thinking that my kids should be here and experience this ride. With a poof, the dream was gone, and I groggily got out of bed and stumbled to the watch and pressed a side button, silencing the alarm. The trick was not to go back to bed, I would go back to sleep and would miss out on my precious alone quiet time, so I walked into the bathroom and emerged a few moments later then headed to the kitchen where I made myself a cup of tea while the rest of the house slept.
I willingly choose to get up at 4:30 in the morning, most mornings. I started doing this about 3 months ago in an effort to get more time in to do my Bible reading and writing uninterrupted before I had to be at work at 7 am. Waking up that early got me about an hour and a half of solid quiet time, even the dog merely glances up from where he’s laying to look at me as I pass by him on my way to the kitchen.
I’ve learned that it takes me about a half-hour to wake up. I used to immediately jump into my Bible study with a cup of tea but I don’t remember much of what I read and my tea would get cold as I focused on my reading. Now I’m in the habit of waking up, making myself tea (or coffee if I feel like it), and sitting on the couch drinking my tea (or coffee), tasting it, not gulping it, and by the time my beverage is gone I’m awake enough to do my reading or writing, or whatever I want to do before the family wakes up and the noises they make permeate the house.
I have grown to look forward to this time of day as it’s an opportunity to do what I want to do when I want to do it. My days begin on a positive note, as I’ve already crossed off 2-3 items from my to-do list. No matter how the rest of the day goes I can say that I was able to do the things most important to me because I got up early and did them first thing.
It’s shaping up to the the most unappreciative “Teacher Appreciation Week” that I’ve experienced in my 14 years of teaching. There will be no posters hung around my high school campus by the Associated Student Body or large bowl of Hershey’s chocolates in the staff lounge brought in by a kind parent. No pizzas or subs for lunch brought in mid-morning by a generous local restaurant and grazed over by the teachers throughout the day. The best Teacher Appreciation surprise was when I arrived at work in the morning and saw that my entire classroom door was covered in a colorful personalized poster. The quadratic formula was on it as well as an acronym I use in my statistics class I teach. An artistic student had drawn a Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass and hat in tribute for my love of that fantastic sleuth.
No personal posters for me this year: I have to go to my classroom and pack it up for the summer, even though we still have another 6 weeks left of school. Put everything away from my teacher-desk, take down posters from the walls, clear out my clutter that naturally occurs when one occupies a room for a while. This is a natural occurrence at the end of every school year, a right of passage, signaling another school year has ended and I, with sound mind of another school year over and down in the books, can put things away so that my classroom can be thoroughly cleaned over the summer. It’s going to feel so unnatural to clean out my classroom and turn in my keys when I’m still working. Distance learning is still happening and I’m still providing lessons and interacting with students (via email, video, and audio of course) so I’m not done. Why then do I have to clean out my room? It goes against the natural order of things and my brain will be resisting the idea that I still have teaching to do. Why am I creating another lesson plan? The class room is packed up and my keys are turned in, I’m done! It’s going to be a constant struggle with motivation for me over the next few weeks.
This week also marks the first week of giving students grades for their work. March 13 was our last school day and ever since then grades have been frozen, locked in purgatory until the District releases them. My colleagues and I have been providing meaningful work digitally to our students since March 30th but I have been incredibly frustrated with the whole process. It’s in my nature to teach and I have the requisite desire to help students. With no grades, students weren’t participating, and I had a fraction of my students complete the optional assignments. I had very little students to help and it made for deep sadness, missing the classroom in a way that I never thought I would. But now after six weeks of no grades, the switch has been flipped, these next four weeks will be graded. I’ve got a hopeful heart as this week progresses, maybe there will be more students participating in my digital classroom.
That might be all I receive this Teacher’s Appreciation Week: more students participating in my Google Classroom. That in itself is a gift to me. Teachers want to teach. It is discouraging that our classrooms must be packed away and our keys turned in before we are officially done with the school year. Disheartening that our interaction in the classroom with our students was suddenly, and without warning, snuffed out. Teachers thrive on the interaction that occurs between themselves and their students. It’s when the best learning happens. This week, with more students participating on my Google Classrooms, I may be able to capture some of the magic that happens in the classroom. That would be a good week indeed.