Friday, March 19, 2004

Days Until the Science Expo: 4

Today began yesterday, with the second day of parent-teacher conferences. Sure enough, after Tuesday's low turnout due to snow, the other shoe dropped, and we saw lots and lots of parents. It is tough having a long line developing outside your door, as parents and kids get bored and grumpy - or grumpier, if they've already received their report card and are waiting for an explanation of bad grades. I had a few disheartening conferences. One was with a mother who had not seen her son's bad grades coming, and felt very disappointed in us for notifying her about his poor behavior but never about his low grades. She had some valid points - remember my own anxieties about these conferences? - but we HAD sent home a progress report a few weeks ago, which she seemed to have forgotten. I was sad to see her angry with us, as I have always had an excellent rapport with her.

By the time conferences ended, the idea of going out for a glass of wine with a colleague and her husband and their Thursday night salon of artist friends seemed lovely. And it was, but then I learned an important lesson: red wine and Robitussin do not mix.* And so I spent a miserable, dog-sick night in my bathroom, and dragged myself to school this morning barely able to walk ten steps without holding onto something. As my bus passed V's house, I started to cry and wanted to call him, wanted to have everything normal again, to spend quiet nights in bed early rather than out in bars making myself sick. I don't go out specifically to drink, I go out because I'd rather be with friendly people than home alone.

The nice thing about my school is that we pull together at the important times. Everyone was really supportive. While I was beating myself up for being so darn stupid, they were pointing out that what I had consumed last night could in no way have been expected to lead to such extreme misery, and was I sure I didn't have food poisoning? Another colleague was out today (we think he's interviewing), and so we had to cover his classes, plus I needed another adult in the room all morning because I could not get up from my desk. It worked out okay. I pulled one of our best seventh graders out of her classes all day to be my assistant - my arms and legs, really - which she was very good at and enjoyed. She is so helpful and competent at everything she does, we'll have to hire her pretty soon! The kids were patient and worked hard (seeing your teacher an off shade of green inspires good behavior), the other teachers helped out a lot, and by afternoon, I was feeling a little better. Tonight I was even capable of eating!

How are the projects coming along? It's hard for me to get a bird's eye view. Very few groups have started putting together their display boards, which is worrying. We've been struggling with internet access and a steadily increasing number of computer failures. I spent the day printing and printing and printing. From what I've seen, this year's sixth grade projects are already better than last year's projects, and the seventh graders really 'get it' and need very little help, which is gratifying. One group - the girls who are looking for a correlation between snack preference and personality type - did fabulous research into Freud and other personality theorists. They wrote that if the id desires Johnny Depp, the ego realizes that this is unrealistic and seeks a look-alike! They are also doing some creative data analysis, given a fairly tough statistical task for seventh grade. Overall, I would say that although I'm worried that they are not closer to being ready, I also know that it will come together quite well. As teachers, we learned a lot from last year to this, and I'm learning a lot that will help me do an even better job next year.

*No lectures in the comments, please. If you want to tell me how I should cherish my job more, and I should have known better, and how could I do something like this so close to the most important science day of the year... let's just say, I already thought all of that, and more.

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