Thoughts From A Teacher’s Life – January

February 4, 2023

I know, it’s February, and I am writing about January, but it’s just that kind of month in the education world.

You’re coming out of a holiday break where you more than likely overate or filled your schedule too full. Or you went entirely the other direction and binge watched Netflix series you were behind on, going days on end living off of what survived in your fridge and wearing the same pajamas. There’s very little in between.

Then throw in that most school districts pay teachers on the end of the pay period, right before vacation, but don’t pay you again until the end of January, the end of the next pay period. That means that, if you didn’t think to put it into savings and leave it alone for a very long 5-week month, your car is on fumes and your pantry and fridge looks like something after the onset of a Zombie Apocalypse.

If you’re not an educator, you are thinking I am crazy.

If you are an educator, I could here your resounding YESSS from here.

So, as we return the first week of January, we are trying to contend with all these things, those waning New Year’s Resolutions we set, along with preparing for a new semester.

Back to school in January means sleepy kiddos that are out of their routines that we need to get back into their zone. We need to review what we covered last semester since they will promise you they learned absolutely nothing in your classroom. We also will welcome in new students that moved over the break, got schedule changes, or are starting a new class if your course is only one semester.

It’s like starting a new school year all over again, except, since you have already done one semester, you may know them and their habits, are already in your routines and your room is set up. Compare to a hangover, of sorts.

As you are dealing with all of these things, you are also dealing with yo-yo weather, no matter where you live. Parents and students trying to locate lost winter garments, trips to the lost and found box, or worse, creating a lost and found spot in your own room that resembles a department store after a sale and everything is everywhere.

Oh, and did I mention, you may have forgotten all of their names, too?

I worked so hard to learn student names that go with the correct student faces and then the holiday rush usually cleared the mind of the names. I never forget their faces, and, luckily, I am Southern, so I can get away with “kiddo”, “hun”, “sweetie”, and other such endearing terms that show them I care and they are important, without revealing I have forgotten their name. It took me several years, but I learned to take a picture of the classroom for a “seating chart” and have their photo and name together, then review them the day before they came back. Works great, until they change the schedule, or you have multiple sets of twins.

But, something happens to the kids over break. The reality of the next year starts setting in and many of them start to mature a bit from who they were last semester. They know your idiosyncrasies and either know what you expect, or work adamantly to get on that last nerve you resolved to do away with.

This is the point in the year where they know what they are doing and can do many things automatically. They are excited about their own resolutions and what this year will hold for them.

Since middle school is where I have spent my career, this is where I start to see the timid and shy 6th graders gain confidence. The awkward and bored 7th graders find themselves and something they value and begin focusing. the arrogant 8th graders become leaders to the younger students in an effort to earn good karma since their next step is as a high school freshman, and it will be their last fresh start of their childhood. It’s a magical transition I look forward to, and gear my lessons, activities and projects towards. I am sure there are similar experiences for both elementary age and high school age, as well.

But, in spite of those stocking stuffers of fancy colorful pens, post its or a replenishment of pencils, it won’t take long before they have run out of supplies and are hitting the classroom supply station.

And, just when they are getting into a routine, the excitement of a 3 day weekend and all the festivities of Martin Luther King Jr Day are kicking in, throwing us out of our rhythm again. That is, if you found it with all the mid-year testing schedules.

Education is a constant ebb and flow of change and transition, but something about January seems to emphasize it a bit more.

It’s a refreshing feeling to get to the end of the month and settle back into a routine…just in time for February to roll in and the Valentine’s Day insanity to begin.

But that’s a blog for next month…

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