On ending the year

Year 2 I did finals on the last day of class, because the school required it and my room was in the center of campus. I was returning—probably. (I looked for new jobs; an offer came in too late to accept). Better part of something not to flout administration, so I did the final on the intended day.

Every other year, I’ve a series of finals or one big one in the days before, and show a movie during the two hour final period. I’d misplaced my copy of Rear Window the year before, so on Friday it was the featured film in all three classes.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really give a damn if my kids love math or just survive it, find “Hamlet” enthralling or torture, or are really interested in what the Founding Fathers thought of strict vs. loose Constitutional construction. But they will by god not turn up their noses at classic films.

And so three times, my film buff’s heart just went pitty-pat thump thump with satisfied joy as twenty to thirty kids shrieked in horror when Lars Thorwald came around the corner of the hall while Lisa was still in the apartment, or gasped and flinched when Burr realizes who’s been watching him.

One girl had seen it already, and she confided that the beginning was slow.

“That’s because you’re used to a different style of movies. But think of this as a novel you’re analyzing for lit class. Look for subtle changes in Stewart’s behavior, for the first time he openly reaches for Lisa instead of fending her off. Or look at the window stories and see how many of them are just reinforcing the different outcomes for women and relationships. And remember this: at the end of the first 30 minutes, Lisa asks if either of them can ever change. Consider that the rest of the movie as an answer to that question.”

She came up to me after it was over to say that she’d never before realized that movies were “just like books”.

“I could write an essay about Rear Window for the SAT!”

“You could indeed. Make a nice change from Martin Luther King.”

Anyway. A richly rewarding experience. Maybe even for my students.

On to the year-end check out.

While the last days of school are usually pretty easy, the very last day of duty is a hassle. Teachers have to get signed off on a bunch of things over the summer, turn in their keys, and leave. You can tell the teachers who count every second of the summer, who have been preparing their room for the end days for at least a week, who know the checkoff list by heart and have it all done before the last bell rings. They’re the ones waiting in line on Friday morning for an admin signoff so they can prove to the principal’s secretary that they’ve changed their voicemail password and turn in their keys.

Then there are teachers who make a day of it–eh, summer’s here, they won’t rush. These are teachers for whom the most significant task—room cleaning—is something they’d rather not think about. They come in late, sigh at the mess of their room, do some grading, get grades in, lackadaisically pack up a few boxes, go get coffee, come back and sigh at the mess of their room, shove a bunch of stuff into their car, go get lunch, toss a bunch of stuff they’d been saving in case they needed it, jam anything left over into their cars, and then look at the sign-off sheet to see what other tasks they need. By this time it’s usually late afternoon and everyone’s left, so they skate the things like turning in two copies of grades, turning in keys, changing voicemail and so on. They email the principal’s secretary and drop by a few weeks later to turn in their keys.

You’ll never guess which sort of teacher I am. Go ahead, guess.

Year 1 and Year 3, I was leaving the schools, so I’d taken all my belongings home earlier. The actual last day, I looked at the various things acquired at the school, remembered where I’d found them, realized no one would give a damn if they were gone, so shrugged and took them, too. Like the really cool geometry book I found stuffed into the corner of a box of books the previous teacher had left for the trash, or the white board found jammed into the back of a junk room that had “3/5/04” on the meeting agenda written (but still removable) on it. Or the massive trunk of fantastic manipulatives, taken from a room stuffed with such trunks that the book clerk told me had been there for five years because “no one used them”. Indeed, at my school, I was the only one who used them, along with the set of 30 student-sized white boards that I talked up to all my colleagues, who all looked at me perplexedly. “They’d just use them to draw on, or scribble obscenities.” “Sure. but sometimes they do math.” No takers. They’ve been put to good use. Those years I was usually the last one out, or close to it, but would usually turn in my keys early and then just prop my door open.

Years 2 and 4, I didn’t leave schools but changed rooms, which required me to pack my car much as if I was leaving because lord knows what gets lost in a move. Last one out both years, had to drive back to the schools to turn in my keys later.

Year 5: I am staying for a third year. No room change. My summer job doesn’t start until Tuesday, so I have an actual brief break to enjoy. Vowing to commemorate the occasion with a behavior change, I stay late both Wednesday and Thursday, finishing all but a bit of my grading, and get much of my room boxed up. On Friday, little to do but finish up grading and pack the boxes, computers, printer, lots of books, office supplies into my storage closet—nothing to come home! Then I bought a lock at the Dollar Store. Last thing in the closet, just before the lock, my class rules sign, made in Year 2, a big piece of thin yellow paper. I don’t like throwing things away.

What was left? Grades done. What was the stuff I usually skated because I was late? Oh, print out copies of grades. Check. Change voicemail. Well, I never set it up to start with, so that should be easy. But the preset password didn’t work. Oh, that’s right, our voicemail system had crashed. Use the system default. Didn’t work.

I sat there, perplexed. Wait. Is it possible that I did set it up after the crash? I vaguely remember the principal’s secretary telling us that the system would be upset if passwords were left in default. Could it be that I’d complied? I never do voicemail. Never. But if I had done voicemail, my password would be….

“You have three messages.”

Only three? Pretty good. Does this mean I’d set up a voice recording?

“Hi, this is Ed. I’m happy to get in touch with you, but to ensure a record of all my interactions, I prefer that parents contact me via email. If this is a problem, please send a note in with your student and I’ll be happy to contact you. ”

The only three messages were system-wides from other teachers. It worked!

I must have set this up in an extra five minutes I had between classes. Not a single memory of it, though.

I was done! Everything signed off, grades done. Turned in the keys. People were still cleaning their rooms. It was 3:30. I wasn’t last!!!!

Then I realized I’d left my laptop and the few take-home things in the classroom. To which I no longer had the keys.

Thank god a custodian was walking by right then. He didn’t even laugh at me.

And so summer begins.

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11 responses to “On ending the year

  • anonymousskimmer

    “You’ll never guess which sort of teacher I am. Go ahead, guess.”

    How could you know so much about type 2 if you were a type 1? You’d already be gone.

  • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse

    OT, but I am conflicted by the current emphasis on teaching Computer Science in high school.

    While a teacher I know says that some boys who are being poorly served by the schooling system are blossoming in Computer Science, I wonder if it is all that useful to teach it in HS?

    Of course, one could consider it a trade, and I think a lot of boys should be doing a trade anyway.

    • educationrealist

      As someone why barely passed the only Comp Sci course I took at the college level and who went on to a reasonably successful career in technology, I’m not at all sanguine about computer science classes. What I would like to see more of is Microsoft type certification classes in network tech and the like. But not in high school so much as voc ed.

      • CS

        Certifications are dangerous things – they give people the idea that they know more about something than they really do.

        Nothing’s worse than meeting an H1B with a bunch of Microsoft or Oracle certifications who can’t program their way out of a box…

  • Lagertha

    AP Comp Sci rocks! My son just got hired to design apps (he’s 19) for a Dutch finance co. & a Broadway choreographer (believe it or not!) who became fascinated with his thinking while he is currently working in Rio. Yeah, WCUP…his comp sci major and knowledge of mechanical engineering ( thru PLTW High School courses) cinched the deal for ESPN to hire him as a per diem employee this summer. He is living near Copacabana Beach with 3 new Brazilian friends ( co-“runners” for ESPN Tech Operations) all thanks to him “finding his worth” in comp sci as a 17-yr. old kid in a semi-rural HS in the foothills of the Berkshires.

    He was a typical boy: High SAT’s, very average GPA (didn’t work hard for some subjects that bore him); all the elite schools ignored him because of the GPA of 3.4 (boys in CT MUST have a 4.0 – even if all courses are higher level AP’s – to get into the elite schools). He did get a perfect 5 in AP Comp Sci…which attracted the attention of about 2000 colleges, elites included. He goes to a boiler-plate State U (great scholarship)…and was able to skip his freshmen year altogether. He will be able to teach Calc, Alg 2, and Java to incoming undergraduates in the fall. More $$$ and NO debt.

    On the other hand, I find this sage thought he has, important to ruminate about: he thinks there is too much of a push to get EVERYONE writing code – the field may get saturated. Yet, if you don’t like math, aren’t aware of the world, don’t read a lot, or don’t spend a lot of time playing video games, you are years behind the top performers. Some top coders skip college all together (CIA has been hiring these types of kids for decades). This scares elite schools the most…and, the fact that high-intellectual-ability HS kids today, are starting to see MOOCs as a cheaper way to get their education – or just go to local, humble State U. – off on a tangent – apologies.

    No big surprise that Asian students are now adding Comp Sci major as another one to consider after the exalted pre-med. But, are they as crazy as my son? Coding is a lot like being an artist – risks, tension, anxiety, success/failure at every turn. It consumes your attention…so, it is good to have hobbies, creative activities or sports to relieve the obsessiveness.

    I consider myself adventurous and an entrenched non-conformist, but I would never have had the confidence at 19 to move to Brazil for the summer, get an apt. with complete strangers, and earn a boat-load of money while working 14-18 hour-days. He does play soccer – a lifetime athlete in several sports; that’s kind of a criterion for ESPN hires outside of special event “runners.”

    Hmmmmm….he did just misplace his laundry ticket…and his Portuguese sucks, so he is far from perfect! But, comp sci is “saving” a lot of boys as a previous poster states.

    And, I think SV will continue to be a heavily male province in California no matter how much there is talk about “not enough women in the tech sector,” – so snooooore. As a female, I totally accept that. I have no interest in coding…it does seem to be a sort of parallel universe for boys, my boys, especially. And, we need all the comp sci wizards working together to save our sorry selves from global climate problems, poverty problems and environmental degradation which is gonna smack us in the face soon.

    • Apollo

      Most of those latter problems do not, primarily, depend upon CS. The present emphasis on computer science / “coding” as the core of STEM is going to leave us with a glut of chat “apps” and a shortage of civil, mechanical, aerospace, electrical… and so on engineers.

  • CLW

    At 57, most of the coding I learned was pre-PC- Basic, Fortran, enough C+ to edit but not write from scratch. It’s one of the more useful skills I picked up in Mining Engineering school. I’d say it gave me an edge over non-programmers, same with ace-ing Tech Writing and Public Speaking. They weren’t in the tool box of your average engineer back in the day. The impression I get from our interns is that that’s still the case. Fortunately enough are interested in coding to write the specialized apps we use to get the job done on a daily basis.

    This year I’m teaching a 5th grade elective in our rural mining town called MindStorms Robotics. It’s basically a beginning programming class, teaching loops and switches, with some basic math and iterative problem solving. I have to say the “teacher” skills are much more difficult than the programming ones; something I never appreciated when my own kids were in school. Riding herd on 25 kids, a quarter of whom need some serious one on one time is tough.

    This may be off topic, but I appreciate Education Realist. He’s explained some of the stuff I’ve been wondering about, such as the lack of ‘best practice’, and the value of the average Master of Teaching. Last year when the local HS called and asked me to teach (or attempt to teach) our high schools remedial math class, he kept me sane. I swear he was in my class most days! Why they would think a layman with no experience would be the right choice is beyond me, other than they were desperate and I was breathing

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