To write about the good stuff in teaching is to cursorily skim over the difficulties of my job, and to write only the difficulties is to put my thoughts out there as what might be considered whining. I go in circles wondering whether I really want to entertain comments about how easy I’ve got it. Or how hard. Both of which are right. And wrong.
My day to day life in 8th grade is Henry and Liza and the hole in his bucket.Do you remember this from Sesame Street?
There’s a hole in Henry’s bucket, so Liza tells him to fix it with a stick. He gets the stick. He goes back to Liza to tell her the stick is too big. She tells him to cut it. With what? A hatchet! But the hatchet, he finds, is too dull. Whatever shall he do? Sharpen it! With what? A stone. Alas, the stone is too dry. Then wet it, she tells him. With what shall he wet it, he asks? Water, she tells him. With what shall he carry the water? He needs to know. A bucket, she answers.
But there’s a hole in his bucket.
Round and round.
In case you’re wondering which character I am in this scenario, the answer is both — on different days at different times. As a child I remember loving Henry, his aw shucks manner and earnest questions. But as an adult I tend to sway toward understanding Liza and her impatient, under-the-breath frustrations bubbling to the surface. Forgive me, I never wanted to be Liza, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.
Case in point: a student I’ll call Student came to class this week on “Project Day,” an entire period I gave to kids for working on reading response projects. Two weeks prior to this day we went over the actual assignment in depth, they got the assignment sheets in writing and on Google classroom, we talked about preparing ahead to bring necessary physical materials, they wrote it down in their planners, we wrote it on the board, they were encouraged to ask any clarifying questions. I reminded them daily about said “Project Day”.
Student showed up on Thursday, having no materials to work, and no reading book with him. It went a little something like this:
H: Mrs. Hamlin, I don’t have my stuff for project day.
Me: That’s too bad, that makes it hard to do your work. How did you miss this information? We talked about daily for the past two weeks – we talked about all upcoming calendar days. We wrote it down…
H: I wasn’t here Tuesday.
Me: Were you here every other day?
H: Yes, but I didn’t have your class every day.
Me: Did you think to come see what you had missed? Did you check in Google Classroom? Did you check the WIP? Did you check the board?
H: Sorry, no.
Me: Okay. We did talk about this a couple of weeks ago when you got the assignment sheet (where the dates are also highlighted for you.) Do you remember that?
H: Yeah, I lost that sheet, sorry.
Me: Next time, you can find it on Google Classroom. You also wrote this date down in your planner. Can I see that?
H: (Looks at planner): Oh, yeah. It says “L.A. Project Day!” But I had no idea what that meant.
Me: Okay. What do you need to progress forward today?
H: I need stuff for my project. Which I don’t have.
People, this is daily. It’s an exercise in the most astoundingly asinine, ingratiating ridiculousness. On this day I had this conversation 8 times – that’s an average of 2 times PER CLASS. And I have variants of this conversation all the time. With different students. About different assignments. Because of differing reasons. In varying degrees of lose-my-mindedness. Sigh.
The thing is: Liza loves Henry. You can see it in the beginning as she rocks in her chair while Henry gets to work. As the work increases and Henry just can’t seem to accomplish anything, she loses patience, yes, but never the love. She just wants him to figure it out, dammit. She wants him to get his ever loving self together already. God love him.
It’s December in public school ya’ll. Can you feel it?