May 24, 2012

The Classroom in May

Any teacher can tell you that by the end of May the classroom dynamic has drastically changed.  As teachers we are running low on patience and the students are ready to get out in the weather that's finally warm and sunny.  But we also know each other really well- I don't have to explain anything when I hand out progress reports; kids just get right to work identifying the assignments they want to improve.  They know where to find extra copies of handouts, where to get pencils and rulers and graph paper, and who to ask for help if I'm busy.  We can joke around, say "remember when?" and let the schedule slide a bit.  My geometry classrooms are even more relaxed than others might be.  Mid-May marks the state test that all sophomores must take and graduation hinges upon passing this exam.  We had major crunch time leading up to the test (I have a post in my head about that process, it's coming soon...) and now we're just doing a series of projects that involve plenty of thinking, but also some down time.

The toughest part of this last month is the students who have decided that they don't like me/my class.  One student in particular has been quick to put up his defenses all year and meets any confrontation with a negative attitude.  A couple weeks ago he asked "why do you hate me?"  At any other time of year the response would have been "I don't! How could you think that??" but on that particular day I was tired, and he'd been off task all class so instead I said "I hate when you don't do your work and have an attitude.  But I don't hate you.." at which point he cut me off while I was trying to describe hating an action vs. a person.  The next couple weeks were rough, and it was hard for me to continue to be positive with him when he was so negative, but that's my job- not just to encourage him to learn math, but also to be a role model of a kind, good person.  This week he stayed after school and we were able to chat without tension.  Today, he came into class and worked incredibly hard, asked me several questions and he told me he wanted to really understand trig, not just get a hint on the problem he was doing.  He continued working while several students around him had gotten sidetracked.  Today, he was my top student, and on my side.  Maybe by next week he'll hate me again, but that's okay.

The best part of the end of the year are the students who really get me and my class.  During class today one student told me that she and her boyfriend were watching a video, laughed, and realized that they sounded like me when they laughed.  The same student was after school and wondered aloud how anyone could not like me, and another student chimed in saying they stood up for me.  I also had students make fan posters a la misscalcul8 before their state test.  All of the ones about me are hanging next to my desk; they catch my eye when I'm tired of looking at my computer screen or grading.

Really, this post is to say: Congratulations, you've nearly completed May!! We finish June 20 so there is less than a month of school remaining.  Some days the outlook is a bit bleak (like, how is today not Friday?!) but the relationships we have built this year will last a lifetime.  Even if we don't often get to see the impact we make, I try to keep in perspective the critically thinking and genuine human beings that I am helping to mold.  I can't wait to start over and do it all again next year.

p.s. If you're here from either of the female math blogger lists- WELCOME! I will be updating a lot in the next few weeks as I catch up on all the reflecting I never got to do during crunch time.  Check back soon or just add me to your reader so you won't have to remember the url.

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