Wednesday, December 5, 2007
But, merry Christmas~
I have a friend, Ross, who lives across the Atlantic in West Amble, a Dickensian sounding village in windswept Northern England.
To read his emails one would think it's always raining or blowing up a gale from the sea, or at this time of the year, sleeting. Maybe it is. Ross says, the past summer "lasted two days, and it was only warm enough for shorts one of those."
He's a truly funny man and I look forward to his common sense comments couched in humor. Make that humour.
In his latest missive he says, " Your last year teaching ... you'll be counting it in months by January, if not already ...
Actually, on the first day of school in September I started putting the "days left" count on my calendar. One hundred-twenty-something left! That's not saying I don't still enjoy the business of teaching a room full of ten and eleven year olds. I do. But I can look forward to the end at the same time, and I am.
He says, "I wonder if, in years past, you had an eye on the class below yours that would become yours "next year" when they moved up. Dreading certain little horrors. Do teachers warn each other: "Look out for that one!"?
Yes, we do. Judging from the whisperings and warnings, the class I will not be around to teach next year is . . . searching for a professional term . . . a doozy.
Classes have their personalities, as do the individuals that comprise them. The up-coming fifth graders are apparently . . . searching again . . . needy.
We also tell the next year's teachers when they can expect a gem of a class, too. They cycle, the doozies and the gems. I'm ending my career with a diamond in the rough class that will be a polished gem I'll set in my good memories come June.
Ross concluded his email with this: "Hoping this finds you well in the land of paper chains (kids still make them, yes?)"
Sadly, no. I'm not sure exactly when we stopped the fun, holiday art activities, but a combination of "tolerance" and "testing" drained the carefree freedom to celebrate the holidays right out of the public schools. And then there are the fire department inspections where the chief makes sure that no more than twenty percent of the wall is covered with flammable paper. The red and green chains would be pulled down anyway.
Each December the superintendent of schools sends teachers a letter telling us to refrain from the mention of Christmas lest we offend. Those who celebrate Chanukah apologize saying they don't care what we deck the halls with. Privately we say Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas in the same breath. Left alone, we don't tolerate; we embrace.
Then there are the tests. So that no child will be left behind, we follow a stringent list of state curriculum standards that must be taught at prescribed grade levels, then tested at the end of the year in a one size fits all state test.
Unfortunately making paper garlands is not in the curriculum, and we have no time to teach anything that isn't going to be tested. No time to relax and have fun. No time to let kids develop at their own pace. No time for real life.
But merry Christmas! And happy holidays of all sorts.
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. - Hamilton Wright Mabie