It was first period Friday morning and the exhaustion that always accompanies the end of my first week back had slammed me. I was looking over the circle maps and surveys, the “getting to know you” homework from the previous night, that my students had turned in while they were taking a pre-assessment. They were mostly filled with the normal things you usually see from middle school students: lots of things on extra-curriculars and interests, lots of “a good math teacher explains things and answers questions” and “a bad math teacher doesn’t teach you”, some “I like to work in groups” and some “I hate to work in groups”. There was one thing, though, that stopped me dead. It was in a section that parents were supposed to complete. It asked for one thing that the parents wanted me to know about their student. The parent had signed it, but the student had clearly written it.
The week leading up to this moment had been jam-packed and the days had been long, long, long. I spent my first official day back reading IEPs to make sure that service hours matched qualifications and that schedules matched service hours, working to fix any scenarios where qualifications/service hours/schedules did not match, documenting modifications and accommodations for all the kids on my caseload and getting those out to teachers so that they would have them before students arrived for the first time. Day two was registration and training on the new discipline plan. Day three I attended district professional development and administered math placement tests to new students. Day four I led professional development on formative assessment all day and squeezed in an hour for JumpStart with my new 6th graders. Day 5 was my first day with my students. There had been a couple of math department crisis thrown in for good measure sprinkled throughout the week. Every single day I had spent 11 plus hours at school and was pretty much running on empty, just trying to make it through to the weekend. So, you could say it was a fairly typical first week.
What did the student say? “I’m afraid ________ is going to ruin everything.” I’m not going to fill in the blank for the sake of the student’s privacy. I will only say that a sentence that begins with “I’m afraid…” is a sentence that requires courage and that demands action. Getting to know students is important, no matter how old they are.