I just finished teaching what may be the last English class of my career. It snuck up on me, but there it is. Next year I’m stepping out of daily teaching to focus on my role as Dean. I’ll still have plenty of contact with kids, but I won’t be the one giving homework, or making up units, or grading stacks of papers on the weekend (big tear plops down on keyboard here).
I spent this final morning with soon to graduate 8th graders at long tables in the cafeteria, guided by the art teacher in hand binding books of poems they’d written that sprang from seeds of poetic language collected while reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.
After that, we segued into the library to read out loud the last few pages of The Comedy of Errors, some end of year Shakespeare that ends when two pairs of long separated twins are reunited: a couple servants (both named Dromio), and their masters (both named Antipholus). Hence all the errors. I’ll miss hearing kids try to pronounce “ducats,” which for some unfathomable reason they can never say right.
Stacks of manila portfolios sit on the coffee table behind me, and the last sweet week of school lies ahead, complete with field days and awards ceremonies and the rest of the hustle and bustle that happens when we leave. Only, I’ll stick around, now that I’m on a twelve-month schedule.
After catching my breath, it will be onward to the first ever academic summer school here at CSOV, which I have developed and will oversee in one small ring of the school while our summer program takes over the big top (can you guess the camp’s theme?).
Also during the summer I’ll finish developing an affective curriculum that we’ll roll out next year, to address social skills in the same intentional way that we currently do academics. As a staff we’ll read about Positive Discipline, and a school wide theme with a developmentally appropriate twist for each grade level will unify efforts to “Share Our Spirit.”
With so much happening now and in the weeks to come, it’s hard to stop for a moment and let it sink in. Sixteen years. Along with four more of night school and half a dozen semesters at the community college, that’s a lot of English teaching under my belt. I’m sad to set down certain tools on the bench that I may never use again, at least not in quite the same way.
Reading quizzes that grade themselves and perpetual writing machines are examples of the arcana I leave behind (kids write q and a’s when they walk in the door, and “I’m done”-ers put “conversation-starters” on the board during a freewrite to keep classmates—and themselves -- scribbling).
Then again, maybe I’ll find a way to keep using this stuff next year, when I plan to go into each classroom in the lower and middle schools, instead of being with the same grade level every day. My English teacher self can be reunited with the long lost identical twin he never knew he had, the Dean, just like the two Dromios at the end of the play.
“We’ll draw cuts for the senior,” says one, unsure of their birth order. “Till then, lead thou first.” Oh no, protests his twin: “We came into this world like brother and brother,/ And now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another.” A little schizophrenic, but as long as I can somehow continue to combine teaching and Deaning, it works for me.