The End of The Never-ending Quarter

Yesterday it finally came! The last day of our middle school’s third-quarter. There are certain things in life that you think will never end: a college basketball game where one team keeps fouling to stop the clock, completing your tax return, the drive-through line at In-N-Out, political commentaries, and the third-quarter of the school year.

Our third-quarter begins after the Christmas break and runs to the exhaustion line of March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, but even leprechauns don’t have that much energy to finish it. Eleven weeks, populated by a multitude of teacher-pleaded prayers for a foot-and-a-half of snow to be divinely-dropped on our school district.

In the midst of student and teacher mental exhaustion, there had been numerous moments of absentmindedness. It was as if we were driving through Kansas with Dorothy and oblivious to the school hallway tornadoes of carelessness and chaos. We trudged on, the “E” light (Education) begging us to stop. I went from 4 cups of coffee a day to 6, felt no remorse for a few students who were home sick, thus reducing the number of hyper-active bodies sitting in front of me. Quite honestly, there were a few days where I came home in need of an attitude adjustment.

During the never-ending quarter, I intentionally threw in a few lessons for shock value to shake up those who were expecting the ordinary. There’s nothing like a good class period right after lunch on the cannibalism of the Donner Party to cause the consumed lunch nachos to bring some indigestion, or create uncertainty about that cheeseburger that tasted a tab different. If I would have thought of it, I would have dressed up as Bela Lugosi, complete with fangs, to add another element of surprise; or maybe I should have fixed a platter of barbecued chicken legs for students to munch on.

We were able to read the book The Cay and then watch the 1974 movie of the same that starred James Earl Jones. The visual effects in 1974 were a bit less sophisticated than what the students were used to, but they seemed to enjoy watching what they had already read. And a couple of weeks ago they did their own 30-second pitches, where they made up an idea or product, recorded their pitch, and then tried to sell me on what they were selling. The creativity was a nice break, but also prepared them to do their own 2-5 minute speech in front of the class.

But there were other signs of boredom rising to the surface in the midst of the student population. Restroom antics, cafeteria chaos, hallway pranks, Little Johnny discovering he could say four-letter words that would make his mom blush, and the emergence of “couples” and hoped-for romantic interests. The spring sex-ed classes should have been placed in the midst of the third quarter…right after the Donner Party!

One day at the end of school, one of my students pilfered my candy stash. A couple of pencils have been broken on purpose. My room phone rang several times, asking me to send a certain student to the office. On a number of occasions, that student did not return to class…for a few days! Our security officer, Mr. C., has kept busy watching video from the security cameras to identify the “guilty” in various escapades. The office has been in need of a number system like at the DMV, where students pull a tab and wait until their number gets called.

The never-ending quarter has taxed patience, damaged friendships, caused pizza to seem tasteless, sent teachers searching for available flights to tropical climates, and had our custodial crew pray for certain numbers in the mega-million lottery to be drawn so they can hire someone to clean up after them.

Of course, there needs to be a P.S. at the end of the never-ending quarter. It will come on Monday in the form of a few students falling to their knees and pleading for grace in the form of excusing missing assignments and the D letter grade miraculously being turned into a B. I’ll look at them and reference the Donner Party: “Bad decisions sometimes are remembered for generations to come. For you, however, whatever was eating at you in the last quarter can be solved by the new adventure and effort of this final quarter.”

Pleading faces will become indignant and further practice of four-letter words will commence out in the hallway.

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