Who’s Counting? Five

The side effects from my second booster lingered all the way through the day yesterday, so that by the time I went to bed, I felt worse than I had all day. After another bout with some chills and uncontrollable shaking, another somewhat feverish night’s sleep, I wake up feeling almost normal on this fifth day from the end of my teaching career and retirement.

Today’s schedule looks pretty cush. First period final exam, where students are sharing their final Romeo and Juliet projects and doing some reflective writing on the semester, then another final exam period for which I will have no students, because, as we found out in our last installment of the countdown, my seniors have already flown the coop. And a half day of school means that the entire second half of the day can be spent grading finals, cleaning up, and packing up.

And there will be lots of music. First up: Steven Wilson, To The Bone, mastered at 45 rpm, which, as I understand it, is better–albeit, a pain in the keister with a belt drive turntable. First world problem. I don’t know why all my Steven Wilson records ended up in the classroom. Maybe I felt they had been previously unappreciated and underplayed while they were at home.

First period: saw some one pagers, some beautiful artwork, a newspaper article about the troubles in Verona, a rap video, and a filmed reenactment of the first meeting between Romeo and Juliet–lines memorized, complete with an acrobatic and athletic climb up to the balcony via a basketball hoop (wrong scene) and a stage kiss. Juliet was played by a boy wearing a wig. On the one hand, a brave move, but on the other–not nearly as brave as it might have been, you know, if R & J were reimagined as a same sex couple. I told the whole class at the end how awesome they were and that I couldn’t imagine a better last group of 10th graders to work with. They were smiling. Romeo said he was tearing up–but I think he was pulling my leg.

Second period: I found myself making a collage photo of all of my previous school I.D. cards and a few old photos taken at work here and there that survived and were languishing inside a drawer in my office. The first card comes from the 2005-2006 school year. Maybe that was the first year we were issued official I.D. cards? I would think, that if they existed, I would have kept them, but who knows. Maybe it takes about 15 years for one to realize that a kind of history is taking shape. It’s equally possible that we just didn’t have cards. Imagine a time when you were not expected to have an I.D. card inside of a public school. And the last card is from 2015. I think that after that point, the school-year specific I.D. card went by the wayside, replaced by a photo I.D. keycard that would just never get swapped out. I’ve had that I.D. card now for years and I really dislike the photo. It’s not present in my collage.

More music: Villagers, Fever Dreams. One of my favorite new discoveries of the year, on which you will find perhaps the most cheerful pop song in recent memory: “So Simpatico.” I bet you can’t listen to this thing without smiling. Vinyl flavor: forest green. Next up, Tune Yards, Sketchy, on translucent blue.

Burned through my 7th period Romeo and Juliet journals–the last pile of response journals I WILL EVER GRADE. Scored a handful of late, late, super late Langston Hughes essays and annotations, and the very late response journal from The Emily Dickinson unit in IB Literature.

Next on the spinning platter of awesomeness: Thundercat, It Is What It Is. And then some more old photographs.

Sara, my English department colleague running the yearbook class, was able to dig out the 1989-90 edition for my perusal, my very first year of teaching. No teacher mugshots. Apparently the tradition of making teachers take a school picture every year alongside students had not yet kicked in. But there is a faculty section with some candids here and there and group shots of entire departments. A couple of observations: One, I was wearing what appears to be a cardigan sweater over my plaid button shirt. Super Mister Rogers of me. And I had just begun working on the mullet that would come into it’s full powers a couple of years later. Two: there are 11 teachers in the English Department and one full time department secretary. Let me say that again: 11. English Department teachers. Full-time secretary. Today, in 2022, in a school that has fluctuated in student growth a bit here and there, but has in large part remained about the same size, we employ 6 English teachers. Let me say that again. 6. And NO secretary. Can you imagine? A secretary for departments? That used to be a thing. Also a thing: a contractual limitation of 125 students for each full-time English teacher. That, in part, explains the large department of English teachers. Now there are no such contractual limitations. If a school in our district were to assign 200 students to a single English teacher, nothing could stop them. And I know that in recent years that has actually happened in my own school house. This, my final year, saw for the first time in a long time, a humane student/teacher ratio. In part, low enrollment, and also the continuing Virtual Online Program for kids who weren’t ready to return to school kept those numbers down. I understand, though, that next year, my full-time position is becoming a half-time position. 6 teachers will become 5 and a half teachers. Numbers will go through the roof. And I won’t be here.

Join me tomorrow for my 4th day away from retirement.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

2 thoughts on “Who’s Counting? Five

  1. A classic case of the frog-in-the-pot-of-boiling-water, no?

    I had a caseload of 208 students my last year of teaching (2014-15), a far cry from that contractually-limited 125 in the ‘90s (my fuzzy recollection had it at 120 for English & science). A 70% increase, to be precise. It helped push me from classroom teaching to IT these past seven years.


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