At school, testing season is in full swing, with all its accompanying misery. The teasing, summery air outdoors taunts me each day, reminding me that for the rest of the month I will be ensconced in the dank, cold, sterile environment of standardized testing. The lengthening days call me to long, lazy afternoons on the porch with a cold drink and a good book, but I have to get through the rest of May.
It seems that most years are like this. Creative pursuits get squashed in the face of the soul-sucking month of May. I come home with the best intentions of writing, blogging, creating something... but it seems all I’m capable of doing is binge-watching Friends and Gray’s Anatomy and falling asleep in my chair by 9:00.
Two things are keeping me going.
I know that when the testing is over and the school doors open to release me one last time, my writing notebook will still be there. The seeds of ideas that I have been planting all year long are waiting, ready to germinate into something new.
Summer gives me the time to do that. I’ll have time to nourish those little seeds into something new and fascinating. I know that there are ideas lying dormant in my mind right now, just waiting for a long day of gardening or hiking to blossom forth into existence.
My mind will not always be taken up with spreadsheets, data, and multiple choice answers, and as soon as this season passes, those ideas will have room to expand.
And I also know that on the last day of school, I will watch my eighth graders leave one last time, marching off into the future. I will stay in contact with some, but others will leave my sight for the last time ever. And I will need time to miss them.
Right now, the shadow of testing casts a pall over everything, but that shadow will subside eventually. My writing over the summer will help me to process a year of learning in my classroom. I’ll reflect on what worked and what flopped, on individual students and their growth, and on myself as an educator and how I will change for next year’s students.
Most of all, in this long season of warmth and growing things, I will remember why I am a teacher, why I am a reader, and why I am a writer. I will remember who I am.
Cristi Julsrud is a National Board certified Language Arts teacher at East Alexander Middle School in Hiddenite, North Carolina. She has taught at the elementary and middle school level, but loves teaching 8th graders the most, and has been doing so for fifteen years. Her primary goal is to create readers, writers, and kind human beings. She has piloted and implemented a feedback-only, gradeless classroom over the past three years. If you are interested in learning more about Cristi's teaching life or about implementing a gradeless readers/writers workshop, you can read more at her blog at The Literate Teacher's Manifesto (http://litmanifesto.blogspot.com). You can also find her on Twitter (@Mrs_J_of_EAMS) or on Facebook (Cristi Lackey Julsrud).