Do the students have Spring Fever? Have some of our teachers moved at a clip that was too fast and so hard that they are running out of gas before the end of the school year? Are there so many fires to put out that one administrator can’t possibly stay on top of them? I think the answer to all three questions is “Yes!”
First the children:
I have always noticed that the changing weather makes children shift their behavior. Our weather has been so crazy for the last month that we don’t know how to dress. The temperature goes from the 80’s to the 30’s within the same week. As soon as we put our sweaters away and pulled out our tee-shirts, the weather man was predicting freezing temperatures on the North shore.
Every year as spring-like weather approaches, the students get antsy and anxious for summer vacation. They can’t sit still. They run around the school and make more noise than usual. They don’t follow the rules that have been in place all year. Surprisingly, we’ve had some exceptionally calm and quiet days. Then, they go nuts and do unbelievable things. Friday, there was a fight after school. Our middle school students have been fighting—right in front of the entrance to the building—mere steps away from the security guard’s station. As the pugilists performed, the audience cheered them on.
We had a visit from the Hornets Basketball Team last Friday for another book giveaway. The students loved the decorated bus that transported the championship ballers and really enjoyed the celebrity visitors. I was at the school between 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. holding a meeting in the library with members of a university/district partnership. Everything was very calm. But at 3:00 it looked like a totally different school. TGIF! I don’t mean “Thank God It’s Friday.” It stands for “Teen Girls In Fights.”
Second the teachers:
I saw far too many upper-grade students going home today without books. No homework on Tuesdays? I don’t think so. We don’t want to be one of those schools where teaching and learning stops as soon as the LEAP tests have been finished.
I am concerned that this year was very hard on some of our staff. The middle school students are the most challenging and their teachers are the worst for wear and tear. All of them are new to New Orleans. We had to change their afternoon schedule, increase the supervision between classes, and step up the assistance to the enrichment teachers. The rest of the school seems okay. I really admire the teachers for hanging in and continuing to search for ways to maintain an effective atmosphere, especially the new, inexperienced teachers who have not had the benefit of mentors or intensive professional development.
Third the administrators:
The principal can’t do everything alone. It was a mistake to open school with one certified administrator. We will definitely have an assistant principal next year. We hired a retired principal to help with the teacher evaluations. Right now we are getting some supervisory help from an administrative intern, the curriculum coordinator, and the administrative assistant. They are going to have to hold daily strategy meetings to stay ahead of the students.
I hope this entry does not sound as if I am giving up on any of our folks. Contrary to that idea, I embrace the challenges of keeping students interested, disciplined, and focused in the final month of school. We have a professional development day next week and I am looking forward to hearing about the closing of school strategies for May. In my principal experience, we always had the Principal’s Reading Challenge to keep students involved. I hope the faculty can come up with something interesting for this group to do.
There are so many great things going on at t he school right now. But, I decided to blog about the spring fever because it is going on all over town. Last week, I called four schools to ask if the students were going berserk. The answer was “yes” in all but one. One teacher that I talked to blamed the administration for bending the rules. In another school, the principal said the teachers were burning out and she had to prod them to work hard until the end of the year. A third principal claimed that the students were “not the same” as our pre-Katrina children, these being rougher and tougher. Parents are being blamed for not doing their share of the child supervision at home or school support when needed.
When I left this afternoon, after a meeting with a potential business partner, two honor roll students were receiving suspensions. Another student who tried to push up a group fight left with his mother, before having a suspension conference with the disciplinarian. Mom was in a hurry. The social worker will be visiting his home tomorrow to deliver his suspension notice.
It is always amazing to experience the unrest of spring in April, the relief of school’s closing in May, and the lazy, calm days of summer school in June. Go figure.
I am allergic to pollen, grass, and dust. My allergies are worse in the spring than in other seasons of the year. It’s only one of the reasons that I hate spring time. You know the other reason.
The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.