Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Every ending has a story

Spring Finale

As final exams wrap up, and all of the life begins to leave the room, and the lights get turned out for the last time, the finality of it all begins to sink in, and things can actually get a bit… sad.

Until it dawns on us that we’re finally FREE and not actually sad. =)1

This week our seniors will walk the stage and officially embark on the rest of their lives. Earlier this month, many of the students that I taught as sophomores in Algebra II during my first full year2 walked the stage at their college graduations. The flow of time gets speedier as we age, indeed.

May 29, 2012

The above shot was taken on Tuesday, May 29, 2012.3 That was at the end of a wonderful three-year arc which took me through Algebra II (regular and Pre-AP), Geometry, Precalculus, and — finally — AP Statistics. Thanks to that trek, more than a third4 of the students in my classes that year were “stuck”5 with me for a second — or even a third6 — time. But having some of those students for multiple years allowed for some really special times,7 and as such, having to watch that year finally wind down to a close was rather difficult.89


This year is also a tough one to close out, for obvious reasons. Even on the first day of school, I could already tell that I had been blessed with an extremely special cast of characters. Ironically, though, when you feel like you’ve had maybe the best group of students that you’re ever going to get,10 that almost makes it easier for you to say to yourself: “It can’t get any better than this… now’s the time to walk off into the sunset.”

I'm fairly certain this kid (whom I have never taught) was trying to be funny with the "tears tears rolling down my face" bit
I’m fairly certain that this kid (whom I have never taught) was trying to be funny with the “tears tears rolling down my face” bit

Perhaps the toughest part of leaving for a new campus is personally knowing some of the students that you’re leaving behind. In recent weeks, I’ve had about a half-dozen of them come by my classroom or stop me in the hallways to introduce themselves, and tell me how excited they were to be taking my class next year.11 I’ve had to fake a few smiles, fully knowing — sadly — that they would not be in my class next year. (This was all in the timeframe after I had finalized my transfer to a new campus, but BEFORE I wanted to break the news to any of my students12 )

One of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed for the past five or six years is that many of the students that walk into my classroom on opening day already know who I am, and — thanks to word-of-mouth and such — know what I’m about. I’m reminded of the old theme song from “Cheers”“sometime you wanna go where everybooody knows your naaaaaaame”. Well that’s another tough thing about starting over in a new locale: I am literally going to a place where nobody knows my name.13


I don’t have a dog. But if I had a dog, even my DOG would tell you that I watch too much television. But my favorite TV show the past few years has been “White Collar”,14 and on an episode15 right before the protagonists take off for the Canary Islands, there’s a moment where Mozzie asks Neal if he’s ready to leave everything behind. Neal’s reply was a poignant, “I can always walk out that door, Moz. I can never walk back in.” Of course, Mozzie — being Mozzie — retorts by channeling his inner Orson Welles: “If you want a happy ending, it depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

A few days after I told my students that I would not be returning next year, one of my most respectable kids came up to me near the end of class and said the following:

So… you’re going over there to teach Stat… but you teach Stat here. And [some] kids here sign up for AP Stat so that they can have you… … [insert slight pause] … and that kinda sucks for them. Do you just not care about any of them?16

And honestly, that kinda sucked the air out of me for a few hours. :( 17 But this just goes to show:

Even if the situation is right and the timing is perfect, saying goodbye is never easy.


Every Summer I try to embark on a “clear-my-head-before-the-new-season” trip.18 Teachers need to travel.19

Upper-left: Big Sur, Cali.  Lower-left: Grand Canyon.  Right: Siena, Italy.
Upper-left: Big Sur, Cali. Lower-left: Grand Canyon. Right: Siena, Italy.

One of the things I spend time considering over the summer20 is a personal theme for the upcoming school year, which is usually a cheesy little moniker or catchphrase that — on a personal level — sums up my feelings for the campaign.

Next year will be “Season 8”, and while it normally takes some time of reflection for me to arrive at an appropriate title for the season,21 this one almost seemed too easy:

HOW TO TRAIN A DRAGON 22

  1. Well, it’s still a little sad. Just a little…↩︎
  2. Season 1: 2007-08↩︎
  3. Right after the end of “Season 5”. This was actually taken the day after the last day of school. For those not aware, teachers actually have to come back after the last day of school for a mandatory day of work (or three, as it is this year — thanks to all of the snow-free ice days that we endured back in January), and in my opinion this is sometimes the toughest day of the year.↩︎
  4. about 60 of the 160 total↩︎
  5. and while I put the word “stuck” in quotations in jest, I’m sure some of those kids genuinely felt like they got STUCK with me.↩︎
  6. Two truly blessed students had me all three of those years, from Fall 2009 to Spring 2012↩︎
  7. On the flip-side, it’s true what they say about familiarity breeding contempt… towards the end of that year some of those students were not afraid to let loose with their attitudes after having me twice.↩︎
  8. 2011-12 was the year where 106 of our students took the AP Exam, with 103 earning at least a “passing” score. Numbers that good are never going to happen again. But as I’ve said before, the numbers on the AP Exam should not be the single most important thing about teaching an AP class.↩︎
  9. Season 5 was such a tough act to follow. I remember how coming back the following August felt a bit anticlimactic, and getting off of the ground was difficult.↩︎
  10. or perhaps, tied for maybe the best group with every other class of students that I’ve ever had… teachers don’t have favorites of course.↩︎
  11. This actually happens a lot. Which, I think is weird, because honestly, I really don’t think I’m THAT great, but okay… whatever. :shrug: ↩︎
  12. I didn’t want students finding out about my impending move until after the AP Exam on May 9, which was a full week after the fact.↩︎
  13. But don’t “awwwwwww”… it’ll be fun.↩︎
  14. Especially since “24” and Jack Bauer have been off the air since 2010… well until just this month anyway.↩︎
  15. Season 3, episode 10, if you’re curious.↩︎
  16. But honestly, those kids will all be fine. They’ll have another very capable teacher and everything will be just fine.↩︎
  17. However, it was nice to find out that this kid thought well of me. That’s one of the things with teaching smart kids: You never know if they like you or if they think you’re a total tool bag (and it’s really nice when you find out that they don’t think that you’re a complete tool bag!) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised to get a note at the end of the year from a kid that was relatively quiet, telling me how much they enjoyed the year – I’m always like, “WHAT that kid actually liked me?!?”↩︎
  18. which, this year is looking to involve Nessy and Stonehenge↩︎
  19. Or at least “get away”, if not literally.↩︎
  20. Either while on the trip, or afterwards↩︎
  21. which in some cases I don’t even come up with until AFTER the year is over↩︎
  22. Well. This is THE END of this blog (or at least the current chapter of). As such, here’s one miscellaneous detail that never really found its way into any of my blog posts: my 404 page — which even the most vicious of blog-creepers have probably never seen — will tell you that I’m a big BIG fan of Chris Nolan. Cannot wait for “Interstellar” later this year. Oh, and with regards to the last picture above, yes, I know, the actual title of the movie is “How To Train YOUR Dragon”, but just go with it. Oh, and if you’re still scratching your head: the mascot at my new school is a dragon.↩︎