We spend days, no weeks, looking forward to school vacation. Students nearly refuse to work in the days leading up to it.
“Miss, can I go watch a movie in Mrs. X’s class?”
I look at him. He must be insane. “Um, no, we’re doing our big public speaking assignment at this moment.”
“No one else is teaching.”
“Well, I am.” The people on both sides of me seem to be, also. I think his numbers are off. I found him a career as a politician or a data analyst. “Are you calling me ‘no one?’ This is worth 40% of your grade. Since you have the calculator on your iPhone out, you can run the math.”
I don’t believe in grades, but I do believe in teaching the real-world skills that set kids ahead of where I’d have been at high school–or even college–graduation. We’re doing one now. Assigning outrageous numbers to these skills gives them value for those who aren’t quite into intrinsic learning, the same way putting an outrageous price tag on a Mercedes or BMW attracts adults. He’ll come back and thank me later. I have the numbers to prove it.
I know he’s not calculating grades, but he sits down, having lost the battle to start vacation one day early.
The bell’s going to ring soon for the last period of the day. Vacation. “What time is it, Miss?”
I answer with the standard, “Time to get a watch.” “Time to get a life.” “Time to work harder.” I say I don’t know what time class starts and ends, if I did that would mean that I was watching the clock instead of enjoying the academic experience.
Most students can’t tell time on an analog clocks these days. I used to think it was horrible, but then again, when was the last time I calculated problems in Roman numerals? Technology changes the way students process, but for some reason not the way schools structure the environment.
The bell–that relic of the industrial era–rings and we all pour into the parking lot. I leave immediately for once–it’s vacation–and check out the upperclassmen’s cars. They rev engines, get into monster trucks, crowd around machines sanded down to the metal–paint’s coming soon–and smack each other in the parking lot. These are the lucky ones. The rest are in the back, sentenced to…The Bus. When I was in high school, my friend Kim picked me up. I didn’t have to ride the bus, and I could pretend to be a little cooler than I really was.
I get in my car. I want to rev the engine like I did in my sportier car days, “Miss, YOU can drive a stick?” Engine revving looks silly in a Subaru Forester, so I roll down the windows, blast some music, and wave and nod instead. Someone shouts, “Have a great vacation, Miss Casey!”
It’s a community effort, funneling a hundred cars into the road at dismissal on a normal day. Vacation increases the sense of urgency. We all part ways.
I’m home now on first morning of our week off. So are they. We’re all thinking, “What do I do, now?” We’re paralyzed. All the “I’m gonna’s” pile up into an overwhelming mountain of possibilities.
In two days, maybe three, they’ll start missing their friends, wishing they were sitting back in my class. In one week, I’ll be smiling at them again, “How was your April vacation?”
I hope I’ll have taken a few steps up my mountain, and knocked a bunch off my pile of “I’m gonna…”
And then, April vacation being complete, everyone will begin the countdown to June.