Friday, January 04, 2013

The Snapping Point

Like so much of New Jersey, my school lost electricity during Hurricane Sandy.  We were closed for nine days.  When we finally returned I had only had my power back for two days.  In all of my classes, there were students whose lives still had not returned to normal.

Soon after we returned to classes, the school determined that we would make up eight of the nine days that we lost to the storm.  The decision was made quickly, at a time when parents were anxious about the time lost and before winter had begun.  We were assured that snow days would proceed as normal and that time lost to snow would not also be added to the schedule.

The give-back days started in November, when a day scheduled day for parent-teacher conferences was converted to a teaching day.  Two more days were  taken from Winter Break.  So we returned to classes yesterday instead of Monday, January 7, as originally planned.  

Not surprisingly, attendance was a bit lighter-than-normal, and we're all still a little sluggish.  When we broke in December, I sent my students home without work to complete, mindful that we were all rather exhausted.  Normally, I try not to have major tests or assignments in December, but this year, with four weeks of classes between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, and mindful of the time already lost, I did give some tests.  Grading that stack of exams over the Break confirmed my view that my students were more stressed out than usual.  I was glad that I had sent them home for rest in my class, though I know that policy was by no means uniform.

Though the kids had no work over the break, I had a truckload of tests and quizzes to grade.  It took me nearly three days to complete the work and was yet another reason to be glad of a roomy dining room table.
As I plan for the second semester of school, I'm mindful that in addition to continuing to catch up with teaching material lost to the storm, I need to be aware of students who remain a little more stressed than usual.  A new year feels like a new opportunity and it surely is that.  But we've five more vacation days yet to give back and I fear we'll all be strung so tight that we'll snap before the school year is over.


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