- Social Emotional Learning: Can It Help Our Most Vulnerable Students? - August 27, 2017
- Why We Should Teach Meditation in the Classroom - November 8, 2016
- Strike! - October 5, 2016
- Teaching a Superpower - September 22, 2016
- Essentially, I am a Teacher - August 30, 2016
- A Chicago Teacher's Dream - January 22, 2016
- A Career in Crisis - August 27, 2015
- Classroom Community and Rock-Paper-Scisssors - July 22, 2015
- The Art of Teaching - June 22, 2015
- Parent tip: Beyond Sounding It Out - June 4, 2015
“Four more days!”
Teachers are counting down, too. Some teachers have had grades done a while ago; especially the benchmark grades when a student’s passing or failing “the test” determines if she goes to the next grade. The rest of us are scrambling to get everything into the computer. The rooms have to be packed up. Files on students have to be ready to pass to the next grade’s teachers.
The schedules are full of talent shows, field days, and parties. If you are in an unairconditioned room then your lights are off and you are just trying to stay cool. Rooms are being cleaned. Letters are being written by each student to the next year’s unknown teacher.
The kids are tightly wound rubber bands just waiting to let loose. As a teacher, you are trying to ease the tightness or stop it when it starts spinning out of control. Neither is an easy feat. I gave a lot of surprise sight word spelling tests or subtraction fact quizzes to stop the spin. Those artsy-crafty projects requiring costumes, shoe or cereal boxes, family photos, or whatever are to ease the tightness. Distractions work.
Those crazy kids seem to have forgotten everything you taught them. They suddenly put the eraser end of pencils into the electric pencil sharpener. They stop putting homework on their desks in the morning. Normally organized areas turn into piles of paper and pencil shavings. Pencil shavings!? Probably, that is because I still haven’t unplugged the electric sharpener and used a paperclip to get the eraser out of it for the umpteenth time.
Sometimes, I would have to give in and just try to control the spin. I would put on bubble-gum music and we’d clean our desks, bookshelves, and general classroom stuff. I rarely let my second-graders pack for me for fear that I’d never find things the next fall. The over zealous eight year olds usually got carried away and start throwing things into whichever bin their friend was working at.
The room alternates from the complete chaos of cleaning, to the passionate creation of a shoebox diorama about a duck’s birthday party or a olive tree in Greece, to the silence of a pop quiz on the phases of the moon. It’s about keeping everyone engaged and out of trouble.
Part of the craziness is due to the upcoming freedom of sleeping in and the dream of no structure. Much of it is due to the anxiety of the year ending, leaving a structure a child understands, and the uncertainty of what the next school year will bring. Which friends will be in my class? Who will be my teacher? What about “the test” next year? (A huge concern for the almost third graders in Chicago.) Will I be able to do the work? And the ultimate: Will my teacher like me?
I would always get a lot of sneaky, looking-over-their-shoulder kind of conversations at this time of year. “Ms. Meredith, what if I can’t do a math problem on the test? Will I flunk third grade?” This is usually asked by a smarty pants math whiz. I try to reassure him by letting him talk to a third grade smarty pants math whiz who has already breezed through the test.
“Ms. Meredith, what if the work is too hard?” I remind these children that a year ago the work we are doing right now was too hard for them. They will be ready when it is time for them to learn the next thing.
“Ms. Meredith, will my best friend be in my class?” I’m not really allowed to answer this directly. So, I tell them I’m not sure yet but they will still have recess together.
One of my favorites was a little peppy girl who asked, “Ms. Mewedif, who is the weally, weally, weally, weally, weally nicest teacher at our school?”
I put a stunned look on my face and reply, “Why, me, of course!”
She put her hands on her hips and studied me for a few long moments. Then, she shook her head. “No, Ms. Mewedif. Yo the funny one.”
It worked for me.
Each year, I was sad to see my class leave. I knew I would miss them. And each year, as we walked out of the school for our final second grade dismissal, I sang, “School’s out. School’s out. Teacher let the monkeys out.”
Have I mentioned how much I love monkeys?