It feels like it’s been raining non-stop in Northern California for a few months now. I know that’s hyperbole, but that’s how it feels. Ordinarily, I love the rain, particularly thunderstorms, hail, and downpours that happen while the sun is shining, which is what’s occuring outside my window right now. However, I’m half-way through my week long spring break, and I was hoping to get a little gardening in, but the weather is working against me. The leaves I neglected raking when they originally fell have turned into a soggy mess, and I will have to wait until they dry out before I can remove them.
Mostly, I’m trying to avoid reading and responding to 150+ seventh grade persuasive essays that I brought home with me. I did just finish reading my first class set today, which makes me feel the need to reward myself with a little computer time. I’m trying to pace my reading, so my comments stay positive and don’t get too cranky. My intention was to read one class set a day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon. I was going to start on Monday and be done by Friday, but I ended up having to visit my father and sister on Monday and Tuesday, and so I’m already two days behind. That means either I’ll have to double-up and read sixty papers over the course of two days or resign myself to reading over the weekend.
Now don’t get me wrong—I love reading my students’ papers—I really do, but reading over one hundred and fifty of them is a daunting task. If I spend just five minutes reading and responding to each essay, that’s twelve and a half hours. Trust me; I’ve done the math. And that’s all done at home, since I don’t have the mental dexterity to try and read their essays during class when I’m supposed to be teaching them something. And my 50 minute prep period zooms by as I prepare lesson plans for the following week, correct other assignments, enter grades, answer emails, fill out forms, etc., etc., etc.
My dad says I should become a P.E. teacher and then I wouldn’t have to grade so many papers. Been there. Done that. In my first middle school teaching job about twenty years ago, my assignment was four periods of English and two periods of P.E. Man, I was a lousy P.E. teacher. Not surprising since I was a lousy P.E. student back in the day. Luckily for my students, my inadequate knowledge of volleyball rules probably did not make them unemployable after graduation. And I was fortunate that the administration saw the error of their ways, and I was soon teaching all English classes. The P.E. teachers at my current school may not have a lot of papers to grade, but they do work their behinds off. Their classes often have over forty students in them. In addition, they’re outside in all kinds of yucky weather or scrambling to find a place to take their classes when its raining, like it’s been doing over the last several months.
I did have one uniquely traumatic moment while teaching that P.E. class, and it didn’t involve the necessity to use C.P.R. on a student. It was shortly before Easter. My students and I were all on the field trying to look like we were exercising. The school’s field was surrounded by houses, many with simple cyclone fences separating us from neighborhood, which made it easy to look into people’s backyards. All of a sudden, we hear a horrible high-pitched wailing noise. We all turn around and see a man in the process of slitting a pig’s throat. Just putting a meal on the table, I suppose. The death throes of that hog were nothing compared to the screams of thirty-five eight-grade girls witnessing this lovely rite of spring. No . . . teacher education just can’t prepare you for moments like that.
One of the nice results of the rain, of course, is that everything is green green green! It’s especially green around my dad’s house. His home is surrounded by forty acres of rolling pastures, scrubby and non-scrubby oaks, wetlands, and blackberry bushes. This is my favorite time of year at his place because everything is so lush. Even the neighbor’s horses enjoy lounging on the field in front of his house and mowing it for us. Things will start to heat up soon enough. The grass will turn brown and the only things that will be green besides the leaves in the trees will be the dastardly star-thistle, which will force the neighbor’s horses to relocate to more friendly terrain.