March Madness: The Teacher Edition – The Struggle is Real


march madness cover

March Madness clearly means different things to different people. For some, it’s a very exciting time of year full of buzzer-beaters and celebrations. For teachers? Well, let’s just say there’s plenty happening that’s driving us mad. So in the true spirit of March Madness, let’s put the 16 things driving teachers mad right now against each other… tournament style! And just for extra fun you can print your own version of this bracket and play along from the comfort of your very own classroom. So let’s get to the matchups!

#1 State testing season vs. #16 Fortnite

Yes, the #1 overall seed, the thing that sends teachers over the edge in March… it’s time to start preparing for state testing! No big deal, just a series of tests taken by children that determine your worth (and in some cases your salary). What’s to worry about, right? Until you start reviewing for the test and realize there’s a very good chance your students haven’t retained a single piece of information since August. Why, you ask? Well, it could be because they’ve spent countless evenings playing Fortnite instead of doing their homework. This plucky #16 has fallen down the list in recent months but is still bothersome enough to cause both teachers and students to lose a lot of sleep.

#8 Full Moons vs. #9 Daylight Savings Time

These are two very evenly matched seeds because they both do very similar things. On one hand, you have the full moon, which seemingly happens every week this time of year. We’re not 100% sure why it affects children so much, but there is absolutely no doubt that it’s a real thing. Classrooms laid to waste after a full moon are a common occurrence this time of year. 

Then there’s Daylight Savings Time which never fails to completely throw kids off their entire routine, weeks after we spring ahead 1 hour. The sun is rising later so kids come to school sleepy and groggy, but it’s up later at night so bedtimes are getting pushed further back. It all leads to everyone’s rhythms getting completely knocked off-kilter. And who pays the price? Teachers of course!

#5 TikTok Challenges vs. #12 Cellphones

Now, this is a very interesting matchup because teachers have been fighting the (mostly losing) battle of keeping cell phones out of the hands of students for a while now. But now there’s a new killer app out there and it’s sucking away their attention like nothing we’ve seen since the days of Pokemon Go. There are now countless hordes of TikTok challenges that children are attempting to recreate and post. For the uninitiated, most of these challenges are a short dance or choreography put to music. It seems harmless enough until you realize students spend HOURS looking at TikToks, recording their own TikToks and commenting on their friend’s TikToks. It’s a time vacuum like you wouldn’t believe. It was bad enough trying to keep their attention while they were Snapchatting their friends. Try teaching reading comprehension to someone watching 50 versions of Renegade!

#4 Coronavirus vs. #13 Allergies

Coronavirus wasn’t even on the radar 3 months ago, but now here it is ranked very highly in our bracket with a solid chance of winning the whole thing. It’s making us re-think classroom procedures and causing cancellations of a bunch of school-related activities. Meanwhile, as teachers we’re left fielding endless questions from students who may not retain any of the curriculum we teach them, but will latch onto every insane theory regarding coronavirus that they hear about.

Matched up against coronavirus in our bracket is the sickness we usually worry about the most around this time of year: allergies. The weather starts to warm up, things are blooming everywhere and you walk around feeling mostly congested and sniffly. Is it allergies? Is it the flu? Is it coronavirus? As if teachers don’t already have enough to worry about this time of year.

#3 Student Apathy vs. #14 Report Cards

Come March, one thing that will drive teachers completely bonkers is the utter apathy they see in their classes. It happens every year: Quarter 1 takes a bit of time for them to settle in, Quarter 2 is when they start to really get in a groove, and then the New Year hits and BLAM! Getting them to do work is like pulling teeth. You incentivize, you beg, you plead… and you get back very little.

The irony of this matchup is that the only time student apathy seems to disappear is when it goes up against report card season. Suddenly, out of nowhere, students become super concerned about their grades. They beg for makeup work, they ask for extra credit, they pester you until they’re blue in the face about how they can bring their 23% up to an A in the next 48 hours. 

#2 Lesson Planning vs. #15 Staff Meetings

At the beginning of the year, we all had lesson plans that were carefully laid out and planned. Everything was timed out and we were careful to make sure it would all work out the way we wanted it. Now? Lesson plans loom large as one of the top annoyances for teachers. Come March we’re constantly in a time crunch and our plans are constantly getting thrown into utter chaos once you factor in assemblies, practice tests, actual tests, spring break and everything else.

Going up against Lesson Plans in this matchup are staff meetings. Just the thing a teacher doesn’t need right now when they’re desperately trying to submit the lesson plans mentioned above. These days, you can guarantee nearly every teacher will be sneaking their laptop to the staff meeting to see how much work they can get done while administration relays information that DEFINITELY could have been an email.

#6 Grading vs. #11 Helicopter Parents

Grading is always something that drives teachers a little crazy throughout the year, but when you pile all of these other seasonal frustrations on top, it gets to be a bit much. There are always papers that need your attention and grade books that need updating. That stress gets multiplied when you throw helicopter parents into the mix. That’s what makes this matchup ever so intriguing. Heaven forbid you don’t update that grade book on time, or even worse… make a mistake and type the wrong grade in for a helicopter parent’s darling, precious child! Rest assured they’ll call, text, email, and tweet you to death until they are satisfied with the grade their child “deserves” (regardless of whether or not that’s what their child earned).

#7 Classroom Disruptions vs. #10 Classroom Observations

Now, this is a very even matchup. Both can throw you off your game, and both can happen at a moment’s notice. At least with observations, you usually have a little heads up before it happens (but not always). Disruptions come in so many different forms and without any warning at all. Phone calls, announcements, fire drills… they can all completely sidetrack a perfectly planned lesson. Observations, meanwhile, do tend to have an upside. Students always straighten up and break out their best behavior when there’s an administrator in the room. Of course, the benefit of kids paying attention is outweighed by the crushing stress of being observed by your boss, so it’s not exactly a big help.

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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