Chaos for you? Routine for me.

The halls get weird in June. One reason is because the weather gets wonky so it’s a different climate in every wing. Some rooms are tropical and other rooms are so cold you wrap yourself in the ugly classroom sweater and get moving. Mine gets oddly moist for some reason so all of the posters and papers melt off the wall and my rooms turns into an academic Picasso. The other reason is the schedule. Finals bring organized chaos to new oxymoronic levels. For the my students, it’s a new and weird map that they don’t understand how to navigate. For me, it’s routine.

That’s something I have to remind myself every year. I hear colleagues complain about how clueless the kids are but we’ve been doing this for 20 years; they haven’t. It’s our job to help them negotiate in times of disorder so they have the skills to cope with it when it’s their turn to take the wheel. Sure it gets exhausting explaining the same thing 10-20 times a day, but it’s a part of the routine.

Me: “Ok friends, don’t forget you have to hand in the study guide for a quiz grade.”
Kid: “Yo miss, does this thing count?”
Rest of class: “DUDE, SHE JUST SAID THAT.”

I have to laugh. I have heard it so many times. The seniors take their finals first because they need time to fit graduation practice in before the big ceremony. This disrupts the undergraduate schedule, so it changes every day. I’m used to it, but it’s easy to forget that my students are not. They are trained to listen to bells, sit, raise their hands, and ask to use the restroom. Do you remember the last time you had to ask to pee? Again, it’s a part of our routine and June upsets that apple cart spectacularly. Some teachers can handle it, some are getting tired of it, and some are 100% done. They have ceased to even.

I think in order to be a teacher you need to have an unexplainable thirst for office supplies, and the ability to thrive in the face of entropy. We’re like large, beautiful willows that bend and sway in the wind when a storm blows in rather than toppling. If I can leave my students with life lessons beyond grammar and literature, I try to teach them three things:

  1. ALOT is NOT A WORD.
  2. Never assume a woman is pregnant unless you see a baby physically exiting her body.
  3. There is a difference between a podium and a lectern. You stand ON a podium, you stand AT a lectern.

Maybe I should add a fourth. Maybe I should teach more about finding routine in chaos that will help them cope after they throw their mortarboards in the air and hang up their graduation robes, never to be worn again.Teach them to find their inner willow so when their storms come they can bend rather than break and spring back for another round. That, I can do something about – but the air conditioning is out of my control. You can borrow my sweater if you need it. The buttons look like school busses.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

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