June 28, 2007

Spit Out Your Gum!

For those of you who have been reading my posts for a while, you already know how much I HATE the end of the school year. Everyone else is giddy with anticipation about the summer to come; all I can think about is the people I might never see again. Barely a week goes by during the school year that I don’t get a visit from some alumni, but its not the same as seeing them nearly everyday for four years. However, there are some things I LOVE about the end of the year, and summer that follows.

First, I will no longer have to say, “Please spit out your gum!” for the next eight weeks. I cannot believe how many times a day I have to repeat those words, please spit out your gum. On the very first day of school I explain in no uncertain terms that in my classroom there is to be no gum. None. Not even a little bit. I teach using computers, and as you know, gum and computers don’t make pleasant bedfellows, so that amplifies the “NO GUM” rule. And every day, at least once a period, I have to tell some otherwise wonderful student to, “please, spit out your gum.” It never fails. I have seriously considered recording myself on the computer saying, “please spit out your gum,” and simply playing it back at full volume every time I have to address another forgetful student. Maybe next year.

Second, I will no longer have to fight the students in my fourth period class (right before lunch) who bring food onto campus from outside vendors. We have a closed campus. It’s sad really that students cannot leave for lunch, but keeping them on campus is much safer and ensures that more of them will actually make it to their fifth period classes. To complicate matters, my classroom is within visual and walking distance to Bakers, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dairy Queen, McDonalds, Jack in the Box and a few Mexican food stands. It’s a terrible temptation for the kids, and I really do sympathize, especially when in my high school days we had open campus for lunch. My buddies and I had it timed just right. If we ran to the parking lot and got off campus right away, we could get to In-N-Out in just enough time to order in the drive-through, slam down our lunch on the way back, and make it to class right before the tardy bell rang. (For those of you non-California readers who do not know what In-N-Out is, you have my condolences.)

Next, during my summer break, a shorter break by two weeks this year due to a district-wide change to modified traditional schedule, I will no longer have to argue with students over grades. I don’t know what it is about this generation of kids. The good news is that I am diligent in my grading and always use a rubric that I share with my pupils both before the assignments are submitted and then after they are graded. I suppose that I could simply choose to not accept resubmissions, but I have found that students learn best when they are given the opportunity to correct their errors. The problem is that I too make errors, and sometimes they catch me in it. It’s good that some students are attentive, but it’s the ones who constantly hound me for extra credit that make me nutso. What makes me more nutso are the kids who ask for extra credit in the last week of school. Yea, right.

Summer is a wonderful stress-free time of unscheduled days and long, late nights reading or enjoying time with my family. I don’t have to grade projects, or write curriculum, or blog. Oh wait, I am blogging. I never blog during the summer. What’s happening to me? Why am I still thinking about school when it’s almost the Fourth of July? Well, there’s good reason. You see, most summers I do spend time writing and revising curriculum. Every year I publish an updated version of my classroom multimedia manual. The brain energy that I would normally be spending on that project is currently idol. Idols because I have no idea what or how I will be teaching come August 15th. None. Why? I teach multimedia using Macintosh computers, nothing strange about that. But my district has a new Windows-only policy and I am in need of new machines. All the financing is in place, but our district technology guy is holding up the purchase for a while, which holds me up from updating my manual. Once the machines are purchased, Mac or Windows, I can then get to work writing. But it gets better. The number of students enrolled in my multimedia courses is way down and for the first time ever I have open periods in my schedule. Everyone else got a letter with his or her Fall assignment on the last day of school. I got an email from the AP that said, “I’ll call you.”

During the summer break I don’t have to think about staff meetings, parent calls, commuting back and forth to school, progress reports, Friday grade checks, tardy students, conferences, or in-service days. I get eight whole weeks to relax. Most of my non-teacher buddies are envious of my summer schedule, and I don’t blame them. It’s wonderful to have time to forget about all of the troubles of the previous school year, and prepare for the challenges of the school year to come. As of right now, next year will be a carefree year when I won’t have to say, “Spit out your gum,” once or more a class period. I won’t have to turn students with illegal off-campus lunch food away from my classroom. I won’t have to argue with students about grades and credits and semester report cards. I won’t have to worry about my day-to-day curriculum (oh wait, yes I will, I haven’t written that yet.)

Ah the glory of summer.