When I returned from my short visit home, October was in full-swing. October… October is the month we were warned about through all of our TFA training. I think even outside the TFA bubble October is a rough month for new teachers and veteran teachers alike. If you can make it through October, you can make it through the rest of the year. Well, yesterday was the half-way mark, and while I can’t say that October has completely lived up to all of the hype, it has been difficult.
First and foremost, October is rough because there are no breaks. School starts in late August and, before you know it, August is gone altogether. Before you get too far into September, Labor Day is here, and you have much-needed long weekend to recuperate. After that, however, there is hardly an end in sight. Here in Florida, at least, school runs straight from Labor Day through Veteran’s Day without so much as a three-day weekend. (Although there is a planning day thrown in there in honor of the end of the first quarter.) For those of you that haven’t brushed on your national holidays, that’s about nine weeks straight of 10- and 11-hour days.
A two-day weekend is not enough for most people but this job easily eats away at free time so that it doesn’t seem like a weekend at all. On Friday, I usually do one of two things: go to our Friday night football game and arrive home at 10 pm with my eyes barely open, or arrive home right after school at 3:30, sit down on the couch, and don’t get up (except to move to my bed) until Saturday morning. Thanks to my 5 am wake-up time the rest of the week, I wake up around 7 or 8 on Saturday morning. One Saturday a month, I head back to work from 8-12 (one of the perks of working in an intervening school). The other Saturdays I work. I lesson plan, write assessments, grade assignments, re-teach myself the things I need to teach my kids, and generally worry about how I will get through the next week. Saturday nights I spend contemplating how other CMs have the energy to even THINK about going out. I’m in bed by 10 at the absolute latest, when drunk calls and texts are just beginning to roll in from friends with “normal” lives.
On Sunday, I wake up in a panic because I haven’t done any of the things that “normal” people do when they’re not at work – grocery shopping, doing laundry, running errands, cleaning, ironing, etc. I rush around alternately doing all of these things and continuing to plan for my week, and then Monday arrives all over again.
But I digress. My point is that the two-day weekend rolls so neatly into the work week that an extra day off now and then is practically a necessity to maintain your sanity. Thus, the black hole that is October. There is no break. There is not five minutes anywhere in the month of October just to breathe. The first quarter is ending. Students who haven’t come to tutoring for the first eight weeks suddenly want to come after school to make up assignments. On a Friday. And they expect that you’ll be there, too.
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To end on a more positive note, something amazing DID happen this week. I had to have a subtitute for the first time.
Okay, that’s not the amazing thing. But, anyone who is a teacher knows that it’s probably one of the only professions in which taking a day off is not relaxing. As I anticipated, I spent most of the day worrying about what kind of havoc my kids were wreaking while I was away. I also spent a good portion of my training adamantly insisting to the other teachers there that I believed that my kids would behave and do their work. Every one of them told me that I was crazy, that there was no way that my kids were doing anything other than causing trouble while there was a substitute in my room.
Fast forward to Wednesday morning. Long story short, I found out that my first block class had somehow gotten into my classroom and was there without adult supervision. What’s more, the bell rang to signal the start of the school day and my sub was not there.
What did my students do?
They got the class roster that I had left on my desk and took attendance. They took the notes I had left on a transparency and put them on the overhead. They took their notes and started on their classwork. And this is what they were doing when our A House assistant principal walked by and noticed that there was not a teacher in the room. Now you know, all of you readers out there, why I love these kids so much, even when they do crazy sh!t, and make me cry and hate my life.
My House administrator attributed this miraculous event to the awesome-ness of A House. My department administrator used it to brag about his fantastic math team. Some other teachers looked at my roster and commented that I got lucky to have a class full of such good kids. I don’t want to brag, because I truly can’t take all of the credit for their behavior. They didn’t do what they did because they’re super-invested in learning Algebra, as I would love them to be. The bottom line is simply that they respect me. To show my gratitude, I got them Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast the next time we had class. 30 hard-earned dollars well-spent.
Despite what everyone says about these kids, that little life lesson holds true – a little respect goes a long way.