I think that this is the product of being in the business of saying good-bye. Saying these things tempers the overall melancholy involved. What I mean is, I got to know a hundred twenty or so high school sophomores this year; good, fine people. We've done some things, had some fun and suffered a bit together. They'll walk out in a week, like all students, and by and large I won't see them again. So, while a break is welcome, this is always a bit difficult.
So, we'll say my goodness the year went fast. Except that it didn't. It was a marathon of contract disputes, and overall disrespect of public education and educators from both inside and outside the business. We implemented a brutally excessive evaluation system and rolled out an even more horribly intrusive and inappropriate testing system while attempting to phase out the old one. Throw in legislators changing the laws as we went along, and some more criticism of teachers just for good measure and we've rounded out a year that felt like at least a decade.
All I wanted to do was teach, to find a measure of success for my students. Needless to say, in this environment it was terribly difficult.
Between you and me, I wanted to teach my students that sometimes no one understands what you're going through, and sometimes everyone seems completely crazy or cruel or completely mad, but it's O.K. I wanted to teach them something about empathy and compassion, that happiness will come through understanding, a feeling of accomplishment, service to one's community, being there for one another. I hoped to instill in them a sense of skepticism, a desire to question, to pursue the truth, to be an active participant in the acquisition of knowledge in order to better understand the world around them, and to work to change it to fit the ideal in their mind.
Unfortunately, these aren't lessons best conveyed in a presentation. I am an American History teacher, so I taught the assigned curriculum and hoped the rest shone through. I gave the assigned assessments, and told stories about my Polish grandmother and her immigrant parents until she got ill and I couldn't bring myself to talk about her anymore.
We discussed Industry and American Ingenuity, activism and agitation. Outside of class I grew more vocal against the state's testing system. Those who didn't know me said this was because I was a failure within the system. They were wrong. I spoke out more.
My students pursued the world wars, we read poetry and manifestos, wrapped our minds around the economic despair of the Depression with their own economic hardship, and related the significance of the Civil Rights era to events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Cleveland.
I wrote my own manifestos as assigned by the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System to prove that I am a quality teacher. They worried about the state tests, so I made them laugh and worried for them. We read and wrote and prepared, and the assessments arrived and arrived again.
More people got sick, students and family. I worried more. Holidays came and went. And throughout, the testing ground away at their enthusiasm as March became April which delivered more testing in May. And still I taught, and still they learned, despite the system.
It has always been this way.
So, it's the end of the year. On the whole we have passed the assessments and evaluations while operating within an atrocious system that belittles us.
As a side note, I believe that my students also learned many things of value this year.
I have a few words for those who continue to criticize me and all of us in public education, but they are not school appropriate.
So I'll say good-bye to my students. We had some fun didn't we?
It sure went fast.