You Can Say That Again

I’m always impressed by singers who passionately belt the same song, night after night, concert after concert. Don’t they get bored? I mean, how many times can Sting sing “Roxanne” before he stops caring about that red light? Hasn’t Beyonce grown tired yet of all those ringless single ladies?

Performers have been on my mind this fall, as I navigate my current assignment of four sections of honors freshman English and one section of junior English. Usually, I have a two/three split, but weirdness in the master schedule necessitated this year’s oddball four/one mix, leading me to feel like a broken record by the end of the school day.

Now, I love freshmen and have taught at least one ninth-grade class every year for the past 17 years. But four sections? Uh…no thanks. In fact, four sections (or, I can’t even imagine the horror, five sections) of the same class makes me want to heave.

First, I can’t tell the same joke four times a day. I just can’t. The first time I tell a joke, I think I’m hilarious. The second time, the joke is still good. The third time, the thrill is gone. The fourth time, I’m thinking, When was this ever funny?

Second, the essay avalanche caused by four identical sections crushes my soul. When I have to grade 136 essays (34 kids per class x 4 classes = Welcome to my world) on the same topic, I seriously start to consider turning in my keys around Essay #85 or so.

The solution? A month ago, I started staggering my calendars. My two morning freshman classes are on one calendar, while my two afternoon sections are on a slightly altered schedule. Everyone will eventually see the same content, but I’ve slid around some lessons and mini-units so I’m not giving the same lecture four times a day.

Yes, it takes a fair amount of organization to keep everything straight, but the payoff has been huge. I’m finishing my day with a ton of energy. (How else would I still have gas in the tank to write a blog post on a Friday night?)

This approach, of course, is not for everyone and probably wouldn’t work well with math or foreign language, but I love it for my English classes. I’ve even altered our current essay assignment, just to keep my grading stacks fresh. For example, the morning classes just finished a personal narrative essay while the afternoon classes will start a different creative writing project in about a week. The same skills will be taught and assessed, but I’ll be a happier human at the end of the quarter. And that’s a win for everyone.

If you find yourself feeling like a scratched record, consider slightly altering your calendars. If your brain is anything like mine, you’ll start to feel sane again.

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