Intense Apathy: An Oxymoron

I shouldn’t have gone to school yesterday. Up until the moment I pulled into the parking lot, I considered turning around and going home. That’s not true. Even as I was making copies and prepping for my first class I seriously thought about asking for coverage and leaving. But I didn’t. Because I am dutiful and responsible, and I do what’s expected of me even on days when my uterus is raging within my body so much that I’d gladly teach class curled in the fetal position on the dirty school floor.


I’ve always suffered horrible cramps, which are so intense at times, it feels as if I could faint or throw up. I took enough ibuprofen yesterday to tranquilize a bear, and yet my cramps insisted on crippling me, thumping incessantly against my lower back and abdomen. The painkillers did deaden the cramping to a consistent ache, but that sort of ceaseless discomfort over several hours rendered me highly irritable and short on patience.


So when during my 2nd period class, after an unexpected 4 day weekend thanks to Blizzard Nemo, I discovered that only three of the 25 students in the class had successfully completed 15 pages of reading originally due for last Friday, I pretty much lost my sh*t. It was half my angry, crampy, screaming uterus, I swear. But it was also the frustration that has been building and compounding upon itself over the last year and a half in this teaching position. You see, many of my students suffer from an intense and severe case of educational apathy. (This seems like an oxymoron even as I type it – severe, intense apathy, ha.) This second period class is overwhelmingly comprised of exceptionally lethargic and indifferent learners. More than half the class failed last quarter. On a regular basis, there are only five or six students who complete assigned work. I have been unfailingly kind, understanding, and encouraging to them while at the same time trying to hold a line of high expectations for their learning. That is, until yesterday, when the perfect storm of severe PMS and unexpressed discouragement at how the class has been going stirred together and spewed forth in a four-minute verbal tirade. I must have said at least five times something like “SERIOUSLY?!?! IT WAS 15 PAGES, AND YOU HAD FOUR DAYS TO READ IT!!!” I then made them sit without speaking for the remainder of class to actually do the reading, because…what else could we do? Maybe this was too kind, but at that point, I just couldn’t muster the patience to try to engage with them at all.


Is this just me being a relatively inexperienced teacher, or am I right to have difficulty understanding how they can just care SO LITTLE about their own education? How is it possible for me to do my job when I care more about their learning than they do? Why do they have absolutely no sense of urgency when it comes to their own futures and the impact their education will have on this future?? Half the time, it feels as if I am going 85% of the way to meet them…and they still refuse to meet me with 15%. I doubt raising my voice at my students yesterday had any effect outside of making me feel a bit better for the moment. Once the class was over, I just felt guilty for letting my irritability overtake me.


I gave my uterus and myself a “mental health” day today. I’ve been laying on the couch under a heating pad watching reruns of “Scandal” on Hulu, which has been surprisingly restorative, because at least I don’t have to deal with the problems that arise when one is the leader of the free world. I’m still dreading tomorrow, though.


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