At this point in the school year there are so many things that have either gone wrong or are in the process of going wrong. Classes are often disrupted by assemblies, units are disrupted by testing, and spring fever is in the air as students and teachers alike gaze out the window at the warm, blue skies. With all of the distractions that are laying in wait to disrupt class and student learning I thought this is the perfect time to highlight some of the many things that are actually going great at this point in the school year. Things that are happening that if you asked any teacher at the start of the school year (veteran or rookie) if they thought it were possible they might tell you to “forgetaboutit!”. These are the things that keep us motivated and loving the craft that is teaching.
You really KNOW your students
They are yours and you are theirs. There is a strong bond of friendship-esque that has grown over the course of the year. By spring, there have been ups and downs, lefts and rights, and inside jokes that only that one particular class will share in. There have been moments of joy, astonishment, fear, and gut-busting laughter. Each class shares in a knowing wink or side glance that only they will remember for the rest of their lives. I often equate it to something that my favorite author, Bill Bryson, wrote for the introduction to A Short History of Nearly Everything (a brilliant read that I highly recommend to everyone reading this post…). Each class will only exist this ONE time in the history of the universe. That’s a pretty heavy statement when you think about it. This particular collections of students has never been tried before and it will never happen again. Ever. That is a very special thing to sit back and appreciate for a moment.
Class self organizes and learning is now “organic”
You laid the groundwork earlier in the school year. You slogged through setting up class routines, procedures and best practices. All your students now understand what to do when they come in, where to look for information, and how to self-start. It’s a marvel to watch. I would often tell my students that they were making me feel useless as I stood in the doorway and watched them organically learn out of the morass of messy inquiry. It’s a beautiful thing. Being able to take a few steps back and loosen the reins of control is one of the holy grails of education. Sugata Mitra has a great TED Talk on learning as a self-organizing system. You should check it out,
You may have finally reached that ‘one kid’
You also may not have but often at this point in the school year there is that ‘one kid’ who is still struggling, still fighting themselves and can’t seem to get out of their own way. You’ve tried everything to help. From cajoling to threatening ( I’m not proud of that moment but it happened…) to giving up, you’ve gone through all of these stages and haven’t permanently lost hope. Now that student is starting to see the fruits of their (and yours) labor. There are more and more ‘AH-HA!’ moments than ‘ARGH!’ moments. A connection to the value of learning is starting to emerge. Since you know your student so much better now than at the start of the school year, you can step back and watch them have the moment for themselves. Seeing a student ‘get it’ is one of the single greatest experiences that comes with being an educator, one that often comes about when I happen to be cutting onions in class…
After they ‘get it’
Students at the end of the year leave your class knowing that they will come back and visit, but it will never be the same. It’s bittersweet. It’s sad. It’s also proud and hopeful. Each and every year as the tears fill our eyes we watch our students leave for other experiences. Inevitably they turn around, look us dead in the eye and say “Thank you”.
I’m not crying! You’re crying!