I am sitting here waiting for my daughter to finish an after school activity and I am getting excited about the last two weeks of school. That’s right, there are two weeks of school left. Teachers and friends started talking about the end of school over a month ago. You have probably heard the same choruses of the end is near, the kids are crazy, I can’t get anything done, etc, etc…
In sports every player steps it up when there are just a couple minutes left on the clock. Musicians step it up during the last rehearsal. Lawyers step it up in their closing arguments. A NASCAR pit crew will step it up on that last stop of the race.
Why then do teachers step back at the end of the year? Why aren’t the last weeks of school the very best in the student’s year?
The last month of school should be the time when teachers step it up. The lessons and units should be the finest of the year. After all, they know their kids best by the end, they know what works and what does not, and they know their skills and weaknesses. The units at the end should be a time for the students to shine shine shine. A time in which all of their hard work from all year pays off and they can now demonstrated what they learned by being in your presence for 180+ days. What you see during the last month of school, what the kids do and how they behave is a reflection of the past year. The last month is a mirror to the year, and also a window to their future. Not only should the lessons reflect the skills and content they have learned all year, but they should lay a direct path for the road they will be traveling after graduation. Does that make sense? I am having trouble with the words. I just know that with me the end of the year became more meaningful when I thought of it not as an end, but as a launching pad of sorts. Especially the last day–that grand finale tear jerker of a day. What we did, what we accomplished, the skills and content that we packed into their bodies will not be left with me, but will be used everyday on their new path. Hopefully, we packed their bags with everything they will need.
On my last day with them I don’t attempt to give them anything new. What I stress, what I try to drive home, is that symbolic “bag” that they have been packing all year is theirs everywhere they go, and that they need to continue to use all the tools that have been placed into it. When the rest of the kids in their future classes are doing bullet point powerpoints will they step back and do the same? When kids in their future classes are all just going through the motions to get a grade will they offer up an alternative to the teacher? When the kids in their future classes are just doing the minimum to pass by afraid of making a mistake, will they continue to take chances and take risks? My last couple of weeks of school are devoted to making sure that when they leave me they don’t step back, but that they continue to step up.