The fourth quarter end on May 31 and we swung right into finals, with makeups this past Tuesday. On Friday, we locked the grades and the academic year was over.
So, what sort of year was it? Tiring and all-consuming it felt. My three sophomore classes, largely comprised of students I taught as freshmen, disappointed me with their behavior and lack of interest in learning. As I pointed out when I graded their final essay of the year, they were collectively making the same mistakes in grammar or punctuation that they were making in September of their first high school year. No growth. They asked for a Humor unit so I built one on the fly, examining the evolution of American humor but they found none of the readings funny. I tried to work with them but met way too much resistance.
My freshmen fared far better. These honors students were largely engaged and active in our discussions, and it was far more satisfying. Of the two classes, the fuller one was the stronger collection and we covered more topics through talk. Their end-of-the-year feedback was very positive and made me feel as if I actually connected and taught them.
On the other hand, my juniors, again many I had taught two years earlier, were divided. Half treated it as study hall, completing work for other classes, notably chemistry which was right after my class. The other half paid attention, spoke up, and seemed more interested than not in the British literature. But, collectively, too few actually completed all our readings and our discussions fell flat.
I decided to get a little revenge. On their Brit Lit final, I posed two chemistry questions and insisted they counted (I exempted the two not taking chem). They laughed good naturedly and got my point.
Of my 135 students, eight failed the year, all by not turning in work and letting the zeroes pile up. That’s a 6% failure rate which isn’t great but I cannot force them to do their work
My SGA work with the freshmen was mixed. The officers had big ideas but could never execute or fully think through the logistics. We did try one May field day, an after school series of snacks and games. To gauge interest I sent out a form for RSVPs and got barely a 30% response rate. I was told the students don’t look at their emails. Well, I had no other way of contacting the entire class.
The whole “I don’t look at email” attitude is vexing since it remains the primary mode of mass communication in high school, college, and the work force. This is something I need to address come the fall.
The other issue that came up was the arrival of AI in the form of ChatGPT. It rolled out in November, and by December, I caught students using it. I warned all six classes before winter break that it was deemed Academic Dishonesty, not being their original work, but they still pushed the boundaries, more often than not getting caught. I spent the last teaching day of the year discussing the pros and cons with the freshmen, and I’ll be curious to see if it has sunk in.
As a faculty, it’s an issue we must study and address. I met with my Assistant Principal about it and will be involved in revising the Academic Honesty portion of the Student Handbook. I have urged that we discuss it in the days prior to the beginning of the 2023-24 school year so we’re consistent with policing and enforcement.
Beyond that, it was a destructive year as a student accidentally shattered a window, and another student broke my desk chair. Then two yahoos wrestled and destroyed one of my bookcases.
It wasn’t all bad. The Coffehouse event I ran in March played to a packed and happy house. This year’s senior class was a particularly strong one, and having so many hang out in the afternoons the last few years was tremendous fun, and seeing them off was bittersweet. And as nature abhors a vacuum, I’ve seen freshmen begin to linger after the final bell.
We had our faculty party Wednesday afternoon, and it was a delight, even if it meant saying farewell to three who are moving on to other chapters of their lives. I head into the summer break uncertain of which classes I will be teaching come August, but the contract is signed, and I look forward to a fresh beginning.