Friday, May 23, 2014

Year 4: Week 35 – Checking Out

There’s this humorous idea that comes up at my school that describes a way to keep kids from checking out before the school year. The plan is to tell them the school year will last a month longer than planned and then just surprise them on the actual last day of school and tell them to go home.

 While this idea is preposterous, it just might work.

There’s many different factor that make it difficult to have productive lessons as the school year comes to an end. The weather is a huge factor this year. In Chicago, we had one of the roughest winters in the history of recorded weather. It got so bad that we literally cancelled school because it was toocold.

Then there’s the arc of the school year, which influences expectations and the way that teachers, parents and students approach the different times of the year.

It’s almost like going on a run. If you know that it’s only going to be a three mile run, that third mile can be much more taxing, then if you are planning to do a five mile run.

There’s plenty of schools that have a year round schedule and by setting these expectations. I’m sure that the dynamic and energy of school at certain points in the years, is quite different than the schooled for others schools like my own which are based on an agricultural calendar.

It’s not just the kids, teachers check out as well. Sometimes it’s because the looming deadline to complete grades takes over our brains while we are still trying to teach. More often than not, it’s a similar issue to what we get from the kids. We see this end in sight and we pace ourselves accordingly.

Teachers adjust to this with the way they plan curriculum. For example I always save my rap project for the end of 5th grade. Many other teachers like myself try to plan concerts towards the end of the year to help keep momentum going. It’s not unusual for teachers to lean on these kinds of lessons to get them through the final weeks.

When I was growing up, I remember watching a lot of movies towards the end of the year. While this is kind of a cop-out, I totally understand doing this. I’ve done similar things myself. Earlier this week in 8th grade band we watched episodes of Animaniacs.

We want our kids to leave for the summer on a good note. That doesn’t mean we lower our standards or waste the end of the year, but it does mean that we are deliberate in responding what kids bring to us when they come to class, even if that’s them checking out. Yes, go ahead and watch a film, but don’t do it because you are lazy, do it because there’s something to learn, and connections to be made.

The end of the school year is challenging for everyone in the school community but it also should be a time of joy and accomplishment. We will all get there eventually.  I know it’s hard to stay in the game, but it’s worth it. You don’t want to wrap up a year regretting that you didn’t do the best you could for your kids up until the very end of the year.

No comments:

Post a Comment