autism,  middle school

This Mid-Semester Slump

The curse of daylight savings means that the sun is down around 5 here…but it also means the pretty lights get turned on when you head downtown for an early dinner.

This past week was sort of a bummer week for my middle school kiddos.

After two months of working really hard, J started up with some disruptive behaviors at school again. We still aren’t sure why; we’re still trying to figure that out. His principal, teachers, paras, and Steve and I have tried to pool ideas of what it might be. Have there been any changes in routine? Could his mouth be bothering him? (he gnaws cankers into his cheeks and lip like nobody’s business) Could it be daylight savings? (I swear it’s dark by 5 here in Fargo) We’re coming up on the holidays (and once again a change in routine) could it be that? Or maybe he’s being a middle schooler trying to test the limits. Maybe he’s just being obstinate and defiant.

With J it’s never a controlled experiment. The variables are constantly changing. Which makes it so hard to find a cause.

By Thursday, W had problems of her own. When I picked her up, she plunked down in the back seat, sniffing snot and squeezing the tears back into her eyes.

“Mom, they took away 6-2’s personal devices [aka personal laptops],” she said between sobs. “I’ve held my tears in all day, but I’m just so mad!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to be sympathetic. Honestly I could care less. Sometimes I wish my kids didn’t have technology accessible to them at all times.

“They caught some kids being on websites they shouldn’t be on.”

“Yeah?” Once again I said, trying to sound sympathetic, though taking kids’ devices away for doing inappopriate things sounds pretty legit to me.

“It’s just a few kids,” she said getting worked up again. “And now we all have to pay for it. It’s going to be so embarrassing when we show up to other classes and the other sixth grade teams have their devices and we don’t.”

“It’ll be a good opportunity to learn and do things without a computer. When I was your age I had to look up everything in the library.”

I knew as soon as I said it that W would think I’m an ancient dinosaur.

Friday W plopped in the car again, steaming mad, holding back sniffles again. “The principal came in to talk to the 6ths graders. You’re not supposed to share locker combinations with anyone, but people did and now things are getting stolen. He said that this is middle school and just because someone is your friend one week doesn’t mean they’ll be your friend the next week.”

“Okay,” I thought. That’s actually some pretty sage advice.

“And then our other teacher said we were slobs because we never cleaned up after ourselves!”

Like I said, it’s been a rough week for the Becks on the school front.

I realized that W–and possibly J, and probably the whole staff at my kids’ middle school have hit the mid-semester slump. This is the first semester in 5 years that I haven’t been an adjunct at one of the universities here, but every semester for the last 5 years, at about this time (those weeks leading up to Thanksgiving) I’ve experienced the mid-semester slump. Tough times for administration, tough times for the teachers, tough times for the students.

The mid-semester slump where the honeymoon with your students is over, and the feeling is mutual on their end. You’re counting down the weeks until the end of semester, and you’re trying to keep that vigor and passion for your subject even though they’re half awake and attendance is spotty because of pressures from other classes. Out of nowhere you have students showing up during your office hours—office hours you’re desperately trying to keep open so you can catch up on grading. These are the students that haven’t attended your class since the third week of the semester, and even though your grades aren’t up-to-date on Blackboard, you know that they’re failing your class now and they will fail your class by the end of the semester. You have to break the news to them—the news they already know. Sometimes they’ll even say, “If I don’t pass your class, Ms. Beck, I’ll be kicked out of school.” And even though it’s not your fault they’re failing your class, you feel like an awful person, and you hope they don’t show up during the last few days of the semester to fill out an SROI (a student evaluation of the instructor’s teaching abilities) because you don’t want them filling it out while they’re still mad at you for not passing them.

This week made me really appreciate what the teachers and staff do for my kids and their educational endeavors. Being a teacher is hard.  I really really appreciate what they have to put up with.

And because I’m frustrated with J right now, I appreciate them even more. I appreciate it when after we have an incident de-briefing, they tell me that they still love my kid and that we’ll figure this out.

Saturday night, decided to try to take a break from the slump. Steve was in Las Vegas for a work conference, so it was just me and the kids. We went out to eat. We came home and had ice cream.


The kids have two days of school and then it’s a break for Thanksgiving and then a few more weeks until winter break. Like I tell J when we’re running and it’s getting tough: “We’ve got this. This won’t last forever.”


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