Dear Seniors: Please, Just Go

Holy shit…you guys are the cat’s meow…let me tell you. You seniors…

But you don’t need me to tell you. Am I right? You already know just exactly how goddamn awesome you are. And some of you really are. But others, not so much.

You come in late, or nor at all. You complain about how stressful your life is. You sleep in class…because you are sooo stressed.

What’s with you guys? I know you are stressed. The stress is maybe a little like alcohol. They say it enhances your personality. But what if you’re a lazy douche bag? Then what?

I think the alcohol comparison is pretty good. This is the end of the road for everybody. I just got a text message from a senior I had taught in American Government who was all mad that I didn’t explain to her that Animal Farm was really about the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s rise to power. The real reason is that for most kids, after the unavoidable two days of explaining that pigs can’t really talk, I would have had to spend a week explaining what an allegory is, another week studying where Russia is on a “map”, and then talking about the Czar and how the Bolsheviks wanted…and suddenly it’s 2015. Anyway, what she did was above and beyond the call for somebody who’s really got it quite made and is about to get out of high school very soon unless she runs screaming up the steps of the capital with a metal box taped to her head. She’s the best.

The great, swollen middle is the people who mostly don’t give a shit, but will climb out of their holes every so often just long enough to do what they have to do to graduate/not take this class again. They are relatively unchanged in these end times because they have mastered the craft of hovering in the range of performance significantly below mediocrity and just above death. They could make us all proud if only their teachers would have better organized lessons.

This brings us to the mysterious fuckers. They are impervious to anything. I could say, “Hey, Jimmy….so…I noticed you haven’t been turning in any of the projects or coming to class more than once a week. You know the semester is ending soon, right? Do you want to graduate?”

“Yeah” says Jimmy. “I got you.”

“Ok, but what does that mean? ‘I got you’? …You say that every time I ask you anything. I’m starting to think you’re a moron and that ‘I got you’ really just means ‘what? me dum-dum’. You’re going to fail if you don’t get these projects done. Do you need help?”

“Naw.”

“Do you have a rough draft?”

“Naw.”

“But you told me you would give me a rough draft last week.”

“I got you. I’m about to, but my…”

“FUCK YOU!!!!! If you ever tell me anything ever again about something you are ‘about to do’…ever…I will stab this pencil right through your heart. I don’t give a flying fuck what you are about to do. I care about what you are doing and what you have done. I could waste another year of my life describing all the simple shit you haven’t done that you told me you were “about to do”. Have another drink of senior-itis and I’ll see you back here next year if I don’t get fired.”

Pray for us both. But I’m not sure what for.

Mr. Teachbad

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43 Responses to Dear Seniors: Please, Just Go

  1. Miss Crabtree says:

    Sorry. I remember having a senior in the house x 2–four years between them–thank God. That was bad enough. Multiply my feelings of dread every time the kid pulled into the driveway and I think I can understand how you feel and how frustrated you are.

  2. Utz, The Crab Chip says:

    I tell someone “I don’t want to hear about what you’re about to do” every day!

    Also, my seniors left 2 weeks ago, they finish up a month before everyone else. It’s nice that they are gone and all, but the period you describe begins right after spring break, then after they leave, the entire rest of the school acts like they are done also.

  3. gilda says:

    We see this same ‘Idon’tcareaboutwhateveritisyou’resaying’ in 6th grade-by the time you see them they’ve had 6-8 years to perfect the total disengagement, eye roll and head toss (usually girls only). We seem unable to effect change at our level, so I don’t think you have a shot at it. I wonder how young the “goaheadIdareyoutoteach me” kicks in? I would hate to think the old research about the first 1000 days of life is completely true, but it sure seems that way today. Maybe I’ll be more optomistic tomorrow.
    I hope you’ll survive your seniors and thrive over the summer!

  4. T says:

    Not teaching Seniors this year but have done this dance many times. You forgot the encore: principal calls you in on the morning of graduation to twist your arm over Jimmy’s grade. Yours is the ONLY class holding him back from graduating. This comes after everyone of Jimmy’s other teachers have had the same conversation that day. Then the tearful mother (who you have tried to reach for months, but left no working # with school) calls to beg and plead with you. She also explains that grandma has flown in from the far reaches of the world to watch jimmy receive his diploma.

    • principal calls you in on the mor

      dingdingdingding!!!! Nothing like the kid who doesn’t have a prayer of passing going to the principal to plead his case.

      This year took the cake: after I explained to Johnny he went to the principal to plead his case. “Ok,” I said. “If he can produce notes excusing every day he’s been absent (10 days in the past month) I will give him the make up work.”

      Yes of course he produced Mom’s signature saying Johnny had dentist appointments all those days (yeah. sure.) Then Johnny and I went through all the grades, matched them up to the dates he wasn’t here . . . oops! what do you know: Johnny was present on the days that he got 10% grades on his test” etc. He conceded that yeah, he failed fair and square.

      But it ain’t over yet! the next day principal appeared in my juniors class *with* Johnny to tell me Johnny didn’t understand why he failed. That I had to let him make up all the warm-ups for days he came late to school . . a total of 40 points. “Let him do that, ” she commanded.

      So ok. I did! and today was the final exam. He ended with FORTY PER CENT, PEOPLE! and what do you think principal is going to say about that?

      I wonder if my arm’s going to get twisted a third time for this kid. Stay tuned.

  5. graycie says:

    One of my best classroom tools was sardonic humor. When my seniors told me “I’m about to . . .” I put on the Teacher Total Boredom Face and said, “I’m about to give you five hundred dollars. Feel rich yet?” While they grasped the concept, it didn’t really change their behavior. The sarcasm felt good to me, though.

  6. colette says:

    Oh, yes. Thank you for saying what we’re all experiencing right now. The seniors have soooo checked out of high school. Why do we even bother having them do anything during the last quarter of the year, especially in AP classes, once they’ve taken the exam?

    At this time of year, it’s one thing after another – the senior prank, senior skip day, senior photos, senior graduation practice….on and on until the interminable awards assembly when the rest of the school has to sit through the meaningless book awards ( no money, just a book!), the athletes of the year, yadda yadda.

    Meanwhile, teachers have exams to correct and posters to tear off the wall, and grades to turn in, and we have to wait until the end of the two hours to hear who the yearbook was dedicated to and wonder if it’ll ever be us and we know it won’t be because we’re just not cool enough….and never will be. I gave up on that long ago.

    The seniors sign each others’ yearbooks and maybe sometimes ask you to sign one but you really don’t want to, but if they don’t ask you then you wonder why they don’t and then you think “why should I care whether some pimply-faced adolescent wants me to sign his/her yearbook, anyway? What am I, in high school?”

    And then it’s over. You shut the door, carrying several tote bags full of your own stuff that you paid for to make your job a little easier, to make their learning more meaningful or enjoyable or whatever. And you think, “I don’t see executives or even secretaries schlepping this much stuff between their workplaces and their homes. Why do I even bother doing this?”

    And on that last day of school, you get together with some of your more fun-loving colleagues for a martini and enjoy a long, lazy afternoon with no bells ringing, with no excuses, no drama, no grading or correcting or planning or shushing or reminding or pretending that you’re upset that someone missed your class when you were really glad they did because they do nothing but disrupt the whole dynamics of the group.

    Yeah. All that. You get to be a grownup and live in a grownup world for a few weeks, until it all starts again in the melancholy, dimming light of fall.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      Colette: Tres bien. That last line about “in the melancholy, dimming light of fall” is wonderful.

    • la Missy says:

      And then, one day, after 36 years of the melancholy, dimming light of fall, the turning of the leaves becomes a shimmering gold, beckoning down turning lanes of color, as you have retired in June and the autumn hues have never been more brilliant, nor the lanes more devoid of children because while you are enjoying a quiet vacation, your former colleagues and their charges are in school!

      • Colette says:

        Yes, this. I am looking forward to embracing the beauty of fall without the knotted stomach and back-to-school dreams. You know the ones I mean: the dreams when it’s the first day of school and you show up in your pajamas (or worse).

        Also, once I retire, I will plan a trip somewhere in September, just because I can. I won’t have to wait til a school vacation and pay the jacked-up school vacation airfares, or deal with the overcrowded airports. I’ll leave on a Tuesday if I want to, and return whenever I please, without making a single sub plan.

        And, on the first day of school, while my former colleagues are taking attendance and handing out textbooks, I’ll go out to breakfast. And I will smile. A lot.

  7. crazedmummy says:

    I would trade 9th grade for seniors in a heartbeat. 9th graders never sleep, and anything is a weapon. Cubes, marbles, pennies, pencils, the edge of paper, laptop computers, keyboards… to sleep is to die. We couldn’t possibly consider Animal Farm, we’re too busy enacting Lord of the Flies on a daily basis. Most of the psychopaths will drop out before 12th grade.
    (I am absolutely proud of your one kid for actually finding something out on her own. I guess that nobody else read the book.)
    Give them the bit of paper. It has no value, except they can go to college and pay $5000 to learn they don’t know anything. Yeah, they could have listened to you for free, but we know free ain’t worth shit.

    • When I taught 9th grade, I realized the only cure was to put all 9th graders into a spaceship and send them into orbit for a year until they become human. I just didn’t have the technology for it.

    • OlliOlli says:

      I find 9th graders much easier to handle than 10th graders. 10th graders are just 9th graders with growth hormones and a scary lack of fear of being at the bottom of the food chain. lol

      • Simone says:

        10th graders…I like them a lot more than 9th graders, but just slightly less than the seniors (who had to take my class because thy either failed it the 1st or 2nd time, transferred in from another district, or took all the other “easy” science classes before they wind up in my class. 10th graders will eat useless food the whole class period- honey buns, hot fries,cheetos, gallons of soda- daydream about being rappers, entrepreneurs,etc., while they should be balancing equations or making sure their acid mixture doesn’t boil over. The seniors I had this year were OK compared to other years. I had one who came to be the day before graduation asking to change his grade from a 30% to a 70%( passing). When I asked him on what reason I should change it, he said “Because I gotta graduate!” I laughed in his face and showed him his other grades for the semester from his other teachers which were all failing.( except for the one 70 which he was able to change himself because he was able to distract the new teacher and change it on his laptop)
        He will be 20 years old this summer. The other senior who almost didn’t make it was a braces wearing, Unabomber looking dude who missed the last month of school because he got locked up. The special ed coordinator who was in charge of his case refused to tell me why. Have a great summer!

  8. Mr. J says:

    I tried Animal Farm this year. Some of my students -the few whose brains have not been completely turned to shit by video games and texting- understood the allegory, and a couple even asked to borrow a copy of it to read again. The rest (the majority), not so much. Why are we learning about pigs? This is stupid. This Orwell guy is retarded. Pigs can’t paint words on a barn. This is gay. I love Orwell’s work, and so I felt insulted when the dipshits started complaining about the book. I felt even angrier when one asshole brought up a Call of Duty game which apparently has Soviet Spetnaz troops as characters. After that, the class forgot about Snowball and Napoleon; they instead engaged in a much more meaningful conversation about what their favorite rifles and sub-machine guns are in multi-player mode. If I was hip and cool, maybe I’d have liked the connection. Guess I’m not…

  9. Mike says:

    I was handing out library fines today in my advisory, and as I handed them out, one precious, darling gem of a student asked me about the fines list, “what’s this?”

    My response: “it’s a fines list for books from the library”.

    “But, I don’t read.”

    “This list says you borrowed a book, but never returned it.” I retorted.

    “But I don’t read”, he repeated.

    Ahh… the future.

    I am fonding awaiting the graduation morning arm twisting…

    • Sean says:

      “Awaiting the graduation morning arm twisting.”
      Man, I hated that, I really, really hate it. Went through it for 20 years. It never got better Mike, it never did…Got written up the first year of teaching seniors for not graduating a football player with a scholarship to a Division I school. He had to go to Summer School. The Div. I school had booted him by Christmas. I saw the boy in town and asked ” What happened?” After a long story he said, ” Well, I never went to class and I drank a lot of beer.” Sort of reminded me of the the old Charlie Robison Texas Country song.

  10. Sean says:

    I spent the last 20 years of my career teaching seniors. There is nothing better, there is nothing worse. Many are lazy, worthless, smart-asses. THERE are some great kids. We had a kid get into a military academy, and another into an Ivy League school. ( May not seem big to you, but in a small East Texas school, it’s BIG.) On the other side of the coin, I had two entire classes rewrite their term papers 4 weeks ago in order for them to graduate. All papers had been plagiarized. Could have gone easy on myself and just overlooked that fact, but I couldn’t. I swear, the last month of my teaching career was my worse. Everyone went to to a bitch-fit over having to rewrite the papers. The kids bitched, the parents bitched, the administrators bitched. Then the dumb-ass that I was, I re-read every damn worthless piece of shit paper.

  11. maia says:

    i teach 8th graders. they think they’re the shit because they’ve been in school for 8+ years. i think they are just shit. i’ve been hassling the ones that are failing or in danger of failing for weeks now, but i’ve gotten no make up work. they “graduate” tomorrow. grades are due after our last teacher work day — so hopefully i’ll avoid all the arm twisting. it doesn’t matter though. they are letting every 8th grader participate in the “graduation” ceremony, whether they’ve ever made an attempt to do work or not. i hate my job.

    • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

      ha, our grades are due 2 days before the last day of school, and we STILL have to come in for the work day afterwards!

  12. T says:

    8 days, 8 days 8 days left of classes and then a week and a half of testing…..8 days….

  13. Why do I keep rereading this post?

    Oh wait… I know why.

    • Sean says:

      I am now “out” of the business. But I keep coming back too Roxanna. I’ll always be a “teacher.” It’s what I am, and I want to keep up with my fellow professionals.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      I am loving your book. Thank you for writing it for us. See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers by Roxanna Elden. Y’all can borrow my copy when I’m done or y’all y’all can just go out and buy yourself a copy. Funny, insightful, on-target. Should be part of every new teacher’s induction package.

      • mrteachbad says:

        I suggest buying your own. I mean, c’mon…it’s Roxanna.

      • Thank you for all the support, Miss Crabtree. ;-)

      • But I do agree with Mr. Teachbad… always buy a copy.

      • Miss Crabtree says:

        Just kidding anyway. I mean, c’mon people. How could I lend everyone on this blog my copy??? I don’t even know who y’all are and you sure as shit don’t know me. Well, one of y’all does, but y’all y’all don’t know if I am little old Mrs. Haggerty in Room 117 of Elmore Littleton Elementary in Dempsey, Montana or Michelle Rhee of Tallahassee, Florida.

  14. Kyle Wynn says:

    I’m a pre-service teacher who within the past few years was a senior in high school. I find this post to be quite interesting as I was in a variety of the three types of students you listed through out high school so I pose the challenge of picking your labels wisely. I never thought that I would become a teacher and here I am today looking back agreeing with some of the stuff you have said but seeing a lot of me as well. Just be careful with who you are giving up on….

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      Not really giving up, sweetie. Just venting to fellow believers and dreamers. Good on you for seeing the light and coming around. I get great satisfaction of stumbling on former students in high school–I teach 6th grade–and seeing what they have actually made of themselves–startling and encouraging in most cases.

  15. T says:

    Kyle,
    I see how reading all this can seem very negative and like we ‘give up’. Much of the ranting is truly aimed at the system and not the kids in particular. Our schools have created these kids who can not meet deadlines or take responsibility for their actions. So when a kid seems to be riding the wave of senioritis and we get ticked off, it is because we know it really is not the kid’s fault. This is a generation of kids who have helicoptor parents that cover up for them, kids who join teams where EVERYONE is rewarded with trophies just because the exist on earth and not for any real accomplishments. We know they are products of a school system more concerned with numbers than with learning. It is these things that piss us off and not the kid. The worst part is that we all know we have had a hand in creating them and this system, because over the years for many reasons, we too cave in to the pressure. It could be just to appease a parent, have an easier time in class or simply because our jobs are in danger if we do not tow the line, but whatever the reason, I know I suffer from a degree of guilt that I helped create this generation of slackers. I think THAT is the reason we rant and can seem as if we give up on certain kids.

  16. Tired of talking teacher says:

    It’s exam time at our high school again. The students want to know what their grades are and what percentage is necessary on the exam to pass the class. We are a school that has block scheduling, so students have four new classes each semester. At the end of the school year, three out of nine failing classes would result in repeating the grade. I have always been of the mindset that making students aware of their averages on a regular basis is the most responsible course of action for a high school teacher. Students then can determine how much time they should allot to studying for a particular class at exam time. Due to absence and missing grades or failing grades, some students will not pass the class or qualify for summer school even if they score 100% on the exam. Should they be told to do their best on the exam anyway? Is it appropriate to tell the student to focus study time on their other classes or allocate equal time for all four classes and risk failing more than one class? Is this age level too immature to get the truth up front or should we wait a week when they receive their report card to be faced with the hard facts?

    • miss m. says:

      Our grades are online for our middle and high school students to see. I found it an excellent lesson in literacy as well as math and priority-setting for the students to learn how to read the grade book. I help my 8th graders to do the math to figure out how to prioritize their time in studying. If getting a 100% on the exam won’t change the grade, I would suggest the students put energy into something more productive. When the 8th graders were taught how to read and calculate the grade spreadsheet, and they could see their grades, in real time (like checking an on-line bank account), their achievement increased in all of their classes, because they could see what “deposits” they had made, what a zero does to a grade (by the way, we have a no zero policy that most teachers think is crap, so we put in zeros anyway…just like a bank account. If you don’t make a deposit, you don’t get half of what you wish you had deposited), and why doing an extra good job on the next assignment might change that 93.4 to an A. One at-risk kid who was a former C/D/F student decided to go for A/B honor roll one nine weeks. He checked his grades on-line every day in advisory. Every day! And, he did achieve A/B honor roll for the nine weeks. Give the kids control! It’s a scary thought, but that simple mind-set shift yields great benefits for students.

      • Miss Crabtree says:

        I do like this simple analogy.

      • Not a Dog and Pony Show says:

        Our grades are online as well. I taught 7th graders last year and encouraged parents to give their kids access to the online grades. After all, it’s the kids’ grades!

        Some parents want that control. I never got it.

        I also didn’t send home grade reports…after all, the grades are online!! If the parents give a rip, they’ll find a way to look them up. And…I only had about one student in each class who didn’t have a computer with internet access. But, like I just said, if you give a rip, you’ll find a computer to use!

        I also enjoyed the parents who would call to rip into me because I didn’t call them that little Johnny made a 16 on a quiz. Well, it’s a quiz…and I put it in the online gradebook and made a note as to why, so that’s your contact. “Well, I don’t have time to look at that.” Wish I had the guts to say “Well, I don’t have the time to call you.”

  17. chimpy says:

    What I hate the most about the senior ‘ocrapihavetopass’ time is the way in which students who have cussed me out and totally ignored me all year all of a sudden want my help, my attention, and my understanding. If I could only be reasonable and cut them a break…

    The best part though is that even if you stick to principles and refuse to pass those that should fail, they will still walk! They will sashay across the stage like they own the place, to the applause of their fellow slackers, and leave you wondering what the hell you were trying to do all year.

  18. Colette says:

    Sometimes I have to remind myself that they are just kids. They live right now, in the moment, and barely plan ahead to what they’re doing after school, let alone for an assignment due in two weeks.

    Their procrastination and lack of planning is enfuriating. I remember even my own kids, who weren’t slackers and managed to make the Honor Society, etc……still, if I asked them what their plans were for the evening or the weekend, they would be annoyed with me for thinking so far into the future. They didn’t want to be “tied down” to something so mundane as a plan.

    And I also have to remind myself of what a student told me the very first year that I taught at the high school level….”Mrs. C., you have to realize that French is not the first thing on our minds.” As much as I wish it weren’t so, I must admit that it wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I was in high school, either. Reading my journal from my teenaged years once in awhile is a humbling exercise that brings those times racing back into my consciousness, and it’s not always pretty!

  19. Ebear says:

    I have a class with half seniors, half juniors. I was so excited the seniors would be graduating (after telling me for an entire month how excited they were to be graduating). They paid $150 senior dues to participate in senior week and pay for their cap and gown. The week of the final exams all but 2 tell me they won’t be graduating because they are missing credits. Fortunately they all passed my class. Unfortunately for them, they wasted money on a cap and gown.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      OMG. Apparently basic mathematics was one of the courses that they failed to pass. Counting is so important in life. Where the heck was the guidance department? Can’t anyone count?

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