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  • Writer's pictureKatie Powell

It was like juggling cats with their tails tied together...

Let me tell you about my day.

It was Friday, as in yesterday, April 26.

My colleague was absent for a funeral, and no one picked up to sub for her. Ordinarily, whoever was available on staff would step in to supervise, but it's standardized test season, so literally every available adult and every available space were already claimed. Our solution was to divvy up her students, half a dozen or so per class, and have them work on the assignments she left while we teach our own classes. This kind of thing happens. We roll with it.

OK, so I got that going. And my morning went reasonably well. I got her students settled, then launched my reading groups. We even did an escape-the-Underworld activity to go along with our chapter in The Lightning Thief. All but one team escaped on time.

I guess the last one's still stuck in the underworld somewhere...

Just as I was patting myself on the back for how smoothly the morning'd run, one of the students from my colleague's class screamed.

Like, literally screamed.

Then banged his head against the table.

See, while I was so successfully running my reading groups, he'd been getting increasingly stressed and overwhelmed at the amount of work he had to do.

And I didn't see it.

I have him in my class later in the day, so I know him well. I wrapped him in a hug and told him he's safe and that I was so, so sorry. He sobbed into my shoulder, and a moment later, I felt him relax. When he sat back, I apologized to his eyes, then worked with him to adjust the number of problems he had to do so he didn't feel so overwhelmed. He sat up straighter, grinned, and said, "I can do that!"

OK, problem solved.

I got both classes dismissed, received my afternoon class and about 8 of my colleague's students (also kids I have in my morning class). I tried to repeat my routine. I mean, it worked so well the first time, right? OK, minus one meltdown. But, by in large, not TOO bad...


I got my colleague's students started, turned to my reading groups to get them started, and noticed one of the students I'd just settled on his assignment walking across chairs.

I turned back to him, redirected, and my reading groups fell apart.

I turned back to them, got them settled, and sat down to look at my list to see which reading group was up for reteaching.

Now, I need to explain that we've been eating lunch about 45 minutes later than usual to accommodate standardized testing for some other grades in the building. And my students' bladders are apparently trained--well--for our normal lunch time. So about the time my cheeks hit the chair, a kid asked to be excused. Then another. Before long, we had a bladder-inspired conga line going. Me, in all my 6th grade teacher glory said,

"Looks like we have a contagious condition of pee-ness."

Yes. Yes I did.

The synapses in my brain caught on a nanosecond too late.

You may think my post will end there.

But wait. There's more.

While I'm trying desperately to redeem myself from that, a student messaged me over a digital service we were using in our reading groups and said he needed to tell me something. Right away.

So, we messaged a moment.

Another student had a Juul. You know, the super small, super hard to catch electronic cigarette that vaporizes cartridges of highly-suspect and highly-addictive substances.


Did I mention I teach 6th grade?

I did super-fast sleuthing, emailed a HELP ME to the appropriate admin, and then went back to juggling classes.

The ensuing disciplinary inquiries and action wound up involving multiple students.

Who cried.

Which made their friends cry.

While I was trying to run reading groups.

And supervise my colleague's students.

And keep one from climbing the chairs.

And keep the girls from using the bathroom, no matter how much their bladders wanted to conga, because the bathroom had been closed temporarily to handle the disciplinary issue.

Did I mention that students were returning at random intervals, out of both my class and my colleague's, from finishing a standardized test?

And that I had to get each one started on their work.

While running reading groups.

And my colleague's students.

And keep the student off the chairs.

While 6,412 students were crying.

And there was a vape hidden somewhere in my room.

And I had an escape room planned?

A student called me over and said, "I bet this is one of the weirder Fridays you've ever had."


When the bell rang, 2 students who had been too in tears to finish their work stayed after with me, and we walked through the work together.

Another came in and said all the crying triggered a memory of her own traumatic experience, and now she was in tears. So, I tried out a strategy I had just read about the night before and had her sit and read aloud to me. See, you can't think about what's upsetting you AND read aloud at the same time. So it safely got her mind off it and let her move on.

By the time I dismissed all 3, 35 minutes into my prep period, I was ready to collapse.

I would have, but the classroom floor scares me a bit.

I was left with a feeling of defeat I can't quite describe. I had planned every aspect of my lesson. It was going to be stellar. I was so excited about that escape room. But no amount of planning could have prepared me for what wound up unfolding that day.

I couldn't shake that feeling of discouragement even after the dismissal bell. I sat at the table in my then empty and quiet classroom and got a text from my husband that my son had been held after school.

I called him and told him I couldn't talk about it. I'd had enough.

But then I noticed a message from a mom. It read,

"My daughter says today was the best day ever because she got to have Mrs Powell ALL DAY."


I think I'm still in a bit of shock over it all. But, I'm Mrs. Powell. And that matters. So I'll be back on Monday to try it again.

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