June 1, 2011

What’s a Teacher to Do?

A friend who teaches at a local public school had to finish her students’ year-end evaluations by the second week of May – nearly a month before the last day of school. She and the students were well aware that the tests signified the completion – at least from an administrative standpoint – of all “important” work for the year. Thus, she lamented, “What am I going to do with them for the next four weeks?”

Similarly, my daughters and I wrapped up a major component of our home learning curriculum in mid-May. As long as I meet my state’s homeschool law requirements, I’m not bound to stay “in session” until a certain date. But I’d previously determined we had several educationally sound reasons to stay on-task through May 25. However, when Monday, May 23, rolled around, I was loathe to call them inside for lessons, and I seriously considered calling it a year right then and there.

Though summer vacations are not really endings – rather, they’re simply breaks from some of the formal ways in which children engage in the lifelong process of learning – I think that, as with any endeavor, we owe it to ourselves and our students to end well. And I don’t believe my desire to stop “just because we can” would meet that goal anymore than if my friend in the public school maintained order but allowed her students to play hangman for a month.

But what’s a teacher to do when just a couple of weeks or days remain and everyone is ready for a change of scenery and routine?

Well, I didn’t like it one bit, but I simply made a conscious decision to persevere. I already had lesson plans through May 25, so I simply plowed forth and talked to my daughters (and to myself, too!) about the importance of maintaining a diligent attitude. We gazed longingly at Thursday, May 26, on our calendar…but we also felt a gigantic sense of accomplishment knowing we’d persevered.

Of course, those in other schools can’t make their own end dates. So my friend’s solution was to determine to maintain her professionalism. She designed meaningful learning activities even though they weren’t required; in fact, she created a really fun language unit that will culminate in a “Word Parade” on one of the last days of school. She has to give her students – and herself – regular pep talks about attitude and diligence, but she knows from past experience that it’ll pay off on June 7, when they can all say they did, indeed, end well.

What about you? What can you do to close out this spring term on a positive note?

Photo Credit: ASU_PCG


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