Monday, June 3, 2019
The Madness of The End
We come, once again, to the end. With exactly a week and a few days of school left, the 2018-2019 school year doth draw to a close. The End is Nigh, as the guy with the sign screams as passersby. Unless he can't spell, in which case the end will be brought about by the sound a horse makes.
How do you close the year? I know how I do- By thinking of as many things I haven't gotten to do yet this year then cramming them into two weeks regardless of how long I know things ought to take. Also by forgetting to honestly reflect on the amount of work and learning that was done since September and instead focusing with laser precision on what was not done, not finished, not perfected, and not taught well enough. Mentally calculating how long it would take for me to write "It's not this child's fault, I didn't get to it" on 32 Post-It notes and sticking them on the front pages of The Folders. (By the way, literally the only time I look at The Folders is when they are given to me at the start of the year, and I place them ever so gently into a drawer, and at the end of the year when I remove them ever so gently from the drawer and insert the final report card, then hand it back to the office ladies who have been wondering where The Folders were this whole time because I once again forgot that I was supposed to take them, look them over, then give them back to the people who actually file things. I can't be the only one. Can I? From your silence I will take it you also do this. Thank you, dear readers.)
I end the year looking at the nine or so stories we still haven't gotten to in the language arts textbook (which I like because crap stories give me a chance to find ways to turn them into good lessons, and good stories are fodder for super neat stuff), and I let my students briefly look over them. Then I have them choose their Top Two Most Interesting Looking Stories from the remainders. We take votes and I break the class into four-ish groups based on which stories get the most votes, and I call it Final Story. The direction basically go, "You know what we've done with stories all year, with creative vocabulary things and looking at the main idea and all that? Do that with your story. Your groups will be presenting what you come up with to the class. When? Uhh...er...Friday?" Because I want to see what they think of when given the direction "Do what we did." What do you think we did all year?
Warning- This is not always a way to make yourself feel better about the stickiness of some of your lessons. But it is good for reflection. So there's that. Fun house mirrors are still mirrors.
We also build a ton during the course of the year, so of course we've going to finish with a build. A project which I've given the brilliant name of Final Design because, well, it's the final time they'll design something in this class. This comes with the wonderfully specific instructions of "Make a Thing. It must solve a problem of some sort. It must move. You must follow the design process." Oh yes, also, "It's due....er...Thursday-ish."
I allow conversations and lessons to get sidetracked much easier than they used to (and I'm not the best at this at the best of times). For example, part of the math I'm trying to cram in at the last minute is about length, liquid volume, and mass. Firstly, I love teaching volume because I will always make the joke of, "TODAY WE'RE GONNA LEARN ABOUT VOLUME! I REALLY LOVE TEACHING VOLUME!" until a student raises her hand and defines the proper type of volume for me. In fact, let's go with I do that whole shouty thing in order to get the kids to define it for themselves properly rather than because it makes me laugh every. single. time. Anyway, today we we're learning about mass, and I let myself get sidetracked into getting nit-picky about mass and weight not being the same thing, and the best example I can come up with to demonstrate that is talking about how on the Moon your weight would change but your mass would not. And if you give a teacher a chance to use space as an example, he's gonna want a YouTube video of astronauts walking on the moon. Once he shows a video of astronauts walking on the moon he's gonna need to talk about space and gravity in general. So he's gonna need a basketball, a baseball, and two volunteers to stand about 24 feet apart. And if a student is being the Earth he's gonna make that student gently rotate to demonstrate the Earth's rotation but also because how long will the student spin in place before asking to stop?
There's so much paperwork and madness at the end of the school year. Grading that has not been started yet and probably ought to be soon so it's not all having to be done in one day, because that always results in comments that read, "[Child name] was in my class well done have a good summer dont forget to read and math and stuff." that have to be changed right after pressing the Print button. There's the End of Year goals conference with the admin where we both have the best of intentions but let's be honest here, I kinda forgot what those goals are in the whole Teach All The Things maelstrom of the year and just looked at all that data again, but I will be happy to see that what I was doing did mostly positively impact the scores I set out to positively impact, and I'll feel justified in my Make Things To Learn philosophy because the scores that didn't go up like I wanted still went up. (I will also be filled with crippling self-doubt that my way might not be the best way and I should probably just teach like whatever my brain has decided a "normal" teacher teaches like because that would be better for my kids. Because teaching is fun.)
Oh, the end of the year is also the perfect chance to eye roll and wave garlic at Educational Innovators And Inspirational Peoples who will go on and on about how great teachers spend summers getting better and improving their practice and if you're not exhausted you're not teaching hard enough and your candle has two ends you wuss, why can't I see more smoke? These people are dangerous and bad for classroom teachers who really have earned some rest, relaxation, and non-teaching reading time.
We have reached yet another ending, my friends. We worked hard, we had laughs, we taught more than we know and they learned more than they realize. Relax and let yourself reflect on your own time, while your mind is distracted with other things. Unpack in dreams.
...oh crap, I still have to pack up my room for the summer painting.
If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.