Periodically, I'll see one of my former students, who will greet me with, "Coach Hunter, your hair is turning gray." I would like to reply to several of them, "Yep, and you were one of the main contributors to my hair becoming gray." Last week, several more hairs lost their color while I was attempting to survive middle school students who are crazed with the home-stretch syndrome.
The last few weeks of school, in an attempt to survive, I occupy my classes with activities which allow them to move around the room or go outside. One of their favorites is building parachutes out of plastic trash bags. This activity requires the use of a protractor and meter stick along with following a few directions. In an attempt to reduce the number of questions, I tape a sample parachute on the board along with writing the dimensions to assist the students in understanding the procedure.
Once the activity begins, immediately, I become overwhelmed with tidal waves of questions. In reply to most of the questions, I'll direct their attention to the board where the answers to their questions are written. As I move from student to student, I'll always have a few attempting to interrupt me while I'm answering another student's question. The more demanding students will even shove their projects in my face in an attempt to gain instant gratification. Sometimes, when I become totally inundated with questions, I'll send myself out to stand in the hall to escape the bedlam.
My room has an outside door which allows the students to go outside and test their parachutes while others are in the classroom working. This is when things really become chaotic. The students inside can hear the students who are outside playing with their parachutes. They frantically attempt to assemble their parachutes in the fastest possible manner. As they finish their ill-constructed parachutes and go outside to test them, the students from outside begin coming inside with various problems they have encountered with their parachutes.
As I attempt to assist the students who have been flying their parachutes, those with the ill-constructed parachutes discover that theirs won't fly and begin to return and also want me to help them. It's at this point that my gray hairs begin to engage in mammoth propagation. With two minutes left in the period, I'll be surrounded with students who each want my immediate attention. With one minute remaining, I'll manage to break away from the group and yell out the door that there is only one minute remaining. When I step back inside, more questions are asked, and my only reply is that they must get the classroom clean and desks straightened before they can leave. The bell then rings as the students are frantically attempting to gather all of their supplies and straighten their work areas.
In every class, there will be materials left on at least one desk, and the students will begin arguing about who the culprit is. Instead of somebody taking ten or fifteen seconds to pick up the equipment and return it to its proper place, the students will continue arguing about who left the equipment out. Finally, a frustrated student will proclaim to the class that even though he didn't leave the equipment out, he will sacrifice himself and put the equipment away.
Before I'm able to get the class out of the room, the next class of students begins arriving and bombarding me with questions about what activities I have planned for them. If I'm lucky, I'm able to step outside the door for maybe twenty or thirty seconds of blissful silence, but usually a student will attempt to follow me outside so that he can ask more questions.
Eventually, the barrage of questions increases my level of stress until not only is my hair turning gray, but the hair follicles begin constricting to such a degree that strands of hair become strangulated and fall out. It was at this point last week that a couple of former students dropped by to visit and made the comment, "Coach Hunter, your hair is all gray."