coffee stationThere’s that point before the end of the horror movie when nearly everyone is dead. You know they’re going to catch the bad guy, because why else spend fifty million dollars on a budget, blood and goring the whole set red?

Most of the time at least one of the good guys has to come out alive… sometimes even two of the ones you were rooting for, or the ending sucks. And at least until the sequel, the killer dies or goes to jail. That’s where the protagonist gets twenty minutes of peace before it starts all over again in the next movie.

That’s what end of the teaching year is like.

For teachers, the correlation is obvious. It feels like we’re opening every closet where the killer might be…book collecting, inventory, complaints, unhappy customers, functions, field days, evaluations, data… the end of the year is like a cacophony of things we might be able to handle or enjoy if only they did not assault us all at once.

This desk represents Dantes's 10th circle of hell

This desk represents Dantes’s 10th circle of hell

For students, it’s that moment of sheer desperation where they look down at their grades and realize that we were right all along.  A senior handed me a paper which referenced Dolly the Clone Sheep more times than I’d ever considered clone sheep in my life. It was well researched and kinda-sorta fit the parameters of science fiction within the I-am-flexible-as-long-as-I-don’t-get-crap-research…the research was solid. So I let it fly.

Another did all the critical thought questions on my school blog in detail hoping I’d let her “relearn” the material for a good grade. I will. Just like I considered Dolly the Sheep. If it’s well done.

“Miss,” said one student I’ll call “Jim” because that’s his name, approached me, downtrodden. It was about five years ago, and I was sitting peacefully in the hallway, guarding it from disturbances. “Remember in October when you said you thought I failed a class freshman year and I needed this class to graduate?”

“Yes.” I remember strange details like that. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast or what my husband asked me to remember–but a kid’s four-year course schedule…that, I can remember.

“Well, you were right.” This was as close to an apology as I generally see.

“I’m in the business of being right.”

“What do I need this quarter to pass your class?” he asked.

“One hundred and forty-five.”

“That’s not very likely, is it?” I almost said “If Jesus came and took the final, it probably wouldn’t happen. Except that’s happened before. I don’t want to make false promises I can’t keep before the Lord.

One day, Jesus did float in. “Hello, my child.” He addressed me in the gentle voice I imagined He would use. He was dressed in all white, wearing a crown of thorns. “Please pass my children.” Those “children” were in a similar numerical situation. A situation I’ve come to refer to as “Jesus math,” whereby only the good Lord, or another deity of choice–a big deity, mind you, not a little assistant–could influence the outcome.

Only later in the day did I discover that two white tablecloths were missing from Culinary and a rose bush in front of the building had been destroyed. Imposter! Posing as the Lord? Is there no low to which people won’t sink during grade mongering season?

Today, I received a set of final exam essays between classes while I was running to the bathroom. Teachers get one bathroom break a day. “I understand if it’s too late,” it says.

I answer. “I’ll look at it in a minute.” I wonder how many people will be wondering if I graded their paper on my iPhone from the bathroom.

The building itself looks rather like the final scenes in a horror movie before the end of the year–books tossed about, lockers being emptied, revealing unmistakable treasures like foods that might even have been edible months ago…It’s all a disaster. My room especially. Every year I promise to toss everything and attain clutter-free enlightenment. Then I look at the stacks of old papers I have created with love, making extra copies because we’re so often out of paper. Maybe I will need those again sometime! They never get thrown away. I’m hoping that because I have digitized most of my stuff on my school WordPress blog and Learnist boards, that I can free myself of these stacks of papers forever.

But for now, I just have to get to the end of the year in one piece. Then, I’ll start planning my attack for next year. I’ll make a plan to clean up my act. I’ve been making this plan for a dozen years, and it never comes together at the end to produce a nice, shiny classroom cleaned in advance. There are always scholars with last-minute numerical needs, last-minute research papers, and stacks of books and clutter. I can’t imagine that will go away. But I’ll try to tighten up my systems anyway.

And this time, next June, it’ll look like the end of a horror movie once again.


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