The Five Flavors of Year 5

You can listen to a podcast version of this post here.

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June 10th, 2022 marks the end of five years of teaching for me. This year has been an interesting one. I am going to trace out five flavors—the sweet, the sour, the bitter, the salty, an the spicy moments— that hit me in the trenches of my classroom through this year.

Sweet

Anxiety swirled within me before I started the school year of 2021-2022. However, that first week back was quite sweet. I welcomed my students back in person. My students were happy to be back. I almost memorized all my students’ names. I was very tired as my body readjusted to teaching in-person after teaching remotely for two years, but adrenaline coursed through me each day during the week. I shared my routines and expectations. We discussed the importance of respect. My students responded very positively to me. Ah, the sweet honeymoon period.

Sour

I can still remember the exact moment when things started turning sour. It was picture day. It was about 1.5 months into the fall semester. I gathered all my students of period 3 nicely into the gym bleachers to await our turn to take ID pictures. There were other students from other classes there also. After about half of my students took their pictures, the students got restless. I heard a bell ring and mistook it for the actual end of the period bell and dismissed the students who have finished taking pictures, but a few minutes later, I found out it was a 10 minute warning bell for the PE classes. After re-rounding up my students, chaos descended. Many of my students unraveled their rowdiness and had a hard time following directions. During these last 10 minutes, period 3 became my toughest class for the rest of the school year.

Bitter

Anger and bitterness were often intertwined for me. During my first three years of teaching, these feelings took a huge toll on me mentally. However, for this year, they manifested into physical symptoms of constant headaches during the fall semester.

During the weeks before Thanksgiving break, a student aggressively challenged me in class about a random topic and then personally attacked me by making assumptions about my relationships.

In March, a student and her group of friends would not stop being disruptive in class. When I asked that she move seats after giving over three warnings, she refused, said she did nothing wrong, got up to walk out of class and called her mom to complain about me.

In May, a student told me to “Shut the F*** up,” after I tried to redirect him to focus oh his classwork.

Each time I revisit these bitter memories, my migraines intensified.

Salty

I was eating a bag of Lays chips after school while grading some work. A few students dropped by and saw me.

“Ms. do you like Lays? They’re so salty!” they complained.

“That’s the way I like it,” I replied.

A few months later, when the bell rung for class to start, some students asked if I was eating pizza earlier.

When I said no, they asked what did I have for lunch.

“Rice,” I shared.

“That’s all?”

“And fish.”

“Oooo…”

“Sardines.”

“Ewww!!”

From these food conversations, it is very clear that my students and I have vastly different tastes. These aren’t exactly “salty” but funny moments for me discussing my love and my students’ disgust for literal salty food.

S̶p̶i̶c̶y̶—Mystery

“Ms, I will miss you. Will you miss me? You’re my favorite teacher.” a student said to me back in May.

His tone did not sound too serious.

Is it bad that I get suspicious and doubt the sincerity of student compliments?

Sweet—again.

Of course, I must not end the year with negative flavors. I must remind myself and affirm all the positive and sweet moments that I have experienced this school year:

Apathetic kids started caring.

A student showing maturity and empathy.

Two students motivated to become teachers.

My students observing how I always stand and never sit.

“Sit, Ms. You must be tired.”

And finding common ground in shared tastes:

“Ms. have you ever eaten Mexican food?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your favorite? Don’t say tacos!”

“Taquitos. Potato Tacos.”

“Oooooo Ms. Those are good!”

Got Student approval.

A mix of everything

But the truth is, these five flavors—and feelings that these words can’t capture exactly—are constantly mixing up together. I taste multiple flavors at once depending on the situation.

A few days ago, a student from my period 3 that constantly made disrespectful comments throughout most of the school year asked me, “Ms. Will you miss us?”

I don’t answer.

The student sitting next to her, added on some choices, “Yes? No? Still thinking about it? You’re still thinking about it, huh?”

I smiled and said, “Yes.”

The first student then commented, “You know you will miss us. Many times you wanted to laugh at the things we say, but you don’t, but know we you do. We are your best class.”

I can only chuckle at my students’ words as I struggled to define whether I will miss period 3 or not.

On the day of my students’ 8th grade culmination, another student asked if I will cry. I said no.

“Why not Ms.?”

“I only cry if I am depressed.”

“What about happy tears?”

But as the day wore on and the culmination ceremony came and gone, I found myself longing for my students as I see the last of them leave with their families after taking pictures. As I gazed at the empty white chairs, I chatted with a nearby history teacher. He shared how he always feels so awkward on these occasions, on not being the most popular teacher and only having a few students out of 100 something students come and ask you for pictures.

I felt the same. I found myself kicking myself and feeling a little “salty” for saying that “I don’t want the attention” to a student who asked if I was jealous another more popular teacher was coming back to attend their culmination. I guess I was lying to myself. I do want the attention. I do miss my students.

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