Battlefield | Mark’s Remarks

marksTeachers will tell you that this time of the year is always interesting. Kids get a little amped up knowing there are just a few days of school left. When we see the end of the school year looming, we all get a little amped up.

Every year, I am asked the following questions: “Are you ready? How many days left? What are you going to do all summer?” I used to get all grumpy about the questions. But now, I figure, what’s the point? People don’t know. Many people will never understand how our profession works. No matter how much I try to educate others, there will always be someone who thinks teachers have it easy.

I walked into my classroom today. It resembles a battlefield, I’m afraid. I smile a little at the messy environment. My students have been counting down the days since late March. The numbers on the dry erase board get a little larger and fancier as the days go by. Today, the board says “5 1⁄2” in lovely block letters, carefully drawn out with a bright blue marker. The numbers are very large and look as if they are going to march right off the board.

Now, you know I’ve written plenty of times about being a neatness nut. This has, most of the time, carried over to my classroom. I need for my desk to be tidy. I have baskets marked for each day of the week. I even have paper clips that say “Homework,” “To Grade,” “To Copy,” and such. It’s a little sickening to the normal person. But neatness nuts think it is wonderful.

I continued smiling as I realized, yet again, how my need for neatness goes by the wayside at this time of the year. There are three, no four (wow, how embarrassing) dirty coffee cups stacked up near my desk. There are a few rings of coffee in various places around my desk where there has been some spillage. Although I know where everything is, the stacks of papers I have on my desk and shelves are not neat and tidy. There is a banana in my desk drawer and a roll of paper towels under my desk.

In various parts of my classroom, there is also evidence of an unkempt attitude. Books on the book racks are disheveled and look like they are leaving for summer vacation, too. The recycle bin is overflowing. Desks are not in neat groups like they once were. News clip- pings of students who have appeared in the newspaper over the year are curled from the springtime humidity. A box of staples is spilled on the counter and has been for several days. I can’t tell you how many ugly little pencils there are in various places; none of them seem sure if they will be pitched or snatched up for one more mercy sharpening.

Yes, I am letting things slide. There is still quite a bit to be done, but I am choosing to deal with the big stuff instead of the messy stuff. I relate to the kids. We are all preparing for some R and R.

Thankfully, I have found I seem to enjoy kids a little more every year. The joy comes from their individuality and their interest in what is going on at school. Even those who may be challenging or labeled the classroom stinker find a way into my good graces. I’m glad I feel this way.

So, no, I am not ready for a break because of the kids or my colleagues. Even though there seems to be more and more to do with each passing school year, I am not sick of or fed up with the workload.

No, I am ready for a break. That’s it. I need time to refuel and I need time to rest. I’m worn out. The strain of making thousands of decisions a day makes sitting and doing nothing sound exciting. Yes, I’m ready for THE break.

As always, the summer goes by quickly. So does the school year. I’m afraid at this stage of my life, life goes by quickly. The break won’t seem long, but hopefully it will be enough. I’ll start thinking about school again by the end of July.

For now, however, I know that soon I will get a sudden burst of energy. My need to have everything shipshape before I close up my classroom for the summer will kick in and I’ll start filing papers, washing the coffee mugs and picking up those staples.

Actually, I guess I can get my students to do at least two of those jobs. Little ones are still happy to help their teacher. I’ll bet they’d love to give me a hand with some housekeeping chores. Hmm.

Heck, maybe I’ll even teach them to file.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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