I love to teach. Most days I got to work looking forward to the day. On most days I also leave work happy, tired, but happy. There are three days that come almost every school year that I dread.
Halloween: Most public schools don’t celebrate Halloween but do come up with some way to still make the day fun for their students. My school has a “Storybook Character Day”. Students are supposed to come to school dressed as a character from a book which leaves the door open to just about any costume to imagine. There is a parade where kids show off their costumes; it is adorable. (My favorite this year was a Hank the Cowdog costume). The problem is that as the day goes on the kids get more and more amped up. On Halloween a student who usually is able to pay attention and works hard becomes distracted by their costume, their friends costume, or by the thought of going out and trick-or-treating. A kid who already struggles to function as a student is rendered completely distracted. There is also the expectation that teachers plan fun activities on Halloween. The kids are too distracted to work in the regular curriculum and teachers are expected to plan activities that are passably educational while still provide a certain level of “fun”. Then come the treats. This happens more towards the end of the day because no teacher really wants to sugar up their students with more than an hour or so left of school. By 2:30 or 3:00 the meltdowns start to happen as costumes get a little damage, the sugar starts to run low, and kids start to get overwhelmed by the hectic day filled with tons of noise and excitement.
November 1st: Remember all that chaos from Halloween? Remember that great night going out and trick-or-treating with your friends? Remember all that candy the kids ate? Well it all comes back to haunt teachers and students on the 1st of November. Kids come to school one or more of three ways: completely exhausted from staying out late, coming down off of a sugar high, or still on a sugar high. Kids like schedules and bedtimes and routine and when that is taken away you are left with less than 100 pounds of tiny, cranky, whiny, human. I don’t know how the teachers who go out and party themselves make it through the day either. School becomes one big crab fest with students disappointed the fun is over and teachers completely exhausted from the day before, trick-or-treating with their own kids, and trying to convince kids that parties can’t happen every school day no matter how much fun they had.
The Day Before Winter Break: By the time Winter Break rolls around everyone, teachers and students, are ready for some time off. It is often the longest continuous break during the school year. The closer it gets to break the more chaos can be found in each classroom. Sadly, there are kids who are dreading break because of their home-life and they start to act out because of the looming uncertainty. Then on the complete other side of the spectrum are kids who are counting down the days until they get their gifts and they are excited for Santa. There is just as much sugar lurking around school on the day before winter break as there is on Halloween. There is also the same expectation for a party atmosphere even if one specific holiday cannot be explicitly celebrated. In addition to the stress of planning another “party” day with quasi-educational centers and activities teachers in a lot of schools have to get their report cards ready to be sent home. They usually go out either right before break or right after. Regardless, no teacher wants to spend their vacation working on report cards. The only upside to the day before winter break is that the next day literally is the beginning of break and teachers and students don’t have to come back for a repeat of November 1st.
As of today, two of these three icky teaching days are behind me. I plan on going to bed early after an evening of meditative knitting. What else can a teacher do? After all, tomorrow is another school day.