It’s Monday, June 1, 2009 and Lynwood High School ends on June 26, 2009. That means there are 25 days left until the end of the school year and 20 more official teaching days left.
But you wouldn’t know it if you came to my first period class today. 35% of my students were absent.
That’s right… 35%!
And why? Well, the answer I got when I freaked out on the kids who actually did show up was that, “Well, the school year is almost over.”
Excuse me? (Deep breath, Mr. Alan!)
WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?
Actually, I know exactly what they are talking about. This was more for theatrics, a bit of Bobby Knight throwing a chair to make a point, catch everyone’s attention and right my classroom’s ship… and quickly!
But even though I’ve been here for years – and been through this for years – it still makes me want to FLIP OUT!!
So how do I respond? By turning up the heat. More work. More teaching. More everything. And why?
Because there are only 25 days left. The perspective through which my students view the last month of school and the way in which I view it are so diametrically opposed it’s bananas. And the thing is, in a way it’s like I am fighting a culture war here.
And if you are keeping score at home, my army is under-equipped, outmanned and ill-prepared to win the battle. Yet we will cede no ground. My class goes bell to bell, September to June, year to year.
And being that it’s NBA time and the Finals are on us right now (Go Lakers!) I believe there is a great deal of value to be found in looking to sports.
Who are the icons of the sport’s world? The folks who deliver in the clutch, who close strong, who deliver in the end when it really matters. Think about it, when is the most critical time of any game? The fourth quarter, the last 2 minutes of the second half, the bottom of the ninth. This is where the mettle of folks is shown.
And teachers who cash out come June make it really hard for those of use who realize that 9 weeks of summer is already enough of a detriment to our nation’s kids (yep, I believe we need a longer school year — but a more effective one as well… simply spending more time being as ineffective as we currently are isn’t going to help anything — we need more school AND we need better schooling) that we don’t need peeps folding up their tents before the gig is even up.
Now is the time where I want to see my kids at their best… not at their most lazy and apathetic. June 1 is message day for me, the day where I fire a shot across the bow of my class and say, WARNING: bring heat or do not enter this room. A psycho teacher is on the rampage and only excellence will do.
Does it work? Well, I do feel like I certainly reach a lot of kids with this approach. And it’s the proverbial teachable moment for my kids about positive habits in life.
But most importantly, though I may be losing the culture war, the battle to treat education seriously in the state of California, I can sleep at night knowing that at least I gave it my best effort.
I can’t control what other people do. Not the parents who buy into the shenanigans of their kids, not the other educators in our state who simply phone it in during the last few weeks of school, not the Governor who wanted to cut a few days of school off the back-end anyway thinking it made for sound economic policy… no, I can’t control any of that.
But I can work my kids to the bell, making them intellectually sweat like Kobe Bryant closing out a game when all the chips are on the table late in the 4rth quarter. You may not like Kobe as a person, but you have to respect the heart he shows as a basketball player — especially when it’s all on the line.
And like I said, this mentality helps me sleep like a baby over the summer… because I know I tried.