When I was young in the world of teaching, we went to a conference for classical educators sponsored by an organization that probably no longer exists. I knew very little about pedagogy at that point – I’m pretty sure this was before we had even started teaching. Everything was new and exciting and useful content.
One session topic stuck deep into my mind because experience quickly proved it to be true: beginnings and endings are important. From the first or last moments of a class period to the procedures that jump start an entire year or help it to end well, all of us would be wise to pay attention to how we begin a thing and what steps we take to finish well. Many good ideas find themselves hamstrung due to poor planning for the start or finish.
A corollary to this, perhaps, for me as a teacher was the realization that May is a hard month in the classroom. Not only is it wise to have an end-game in mind for those final weeks of the year, it’s a survival mechanism. By this point, everyone is either too exuberant over the prospect of summer or too irritated with the human beings they’ve put up with for the past 170 days for any learning to be effective. Sometimes a school year boils down to a race to the finish: will my patience run out before the students leave for good? Tune in next week to find out!
[I remember the year we ended up with what felt like an eternal string of make-up snow days … I thought parents, students, and teachers alike were going to mutiny against the Maester of the Calendar and burn his schedule, taking the school building with it. No one in the South should be in a classroom after May 31.]
Though my days are no longer spent in the classroom, I find the rhythm of the school year comforting, and working at a college hardly releases me from its effects. One major advantage of school over work-a-day life lies in the regular application of vacation days. Sure, most jobs come with days off but it’s nothing like having a week all to yourself at least every 3 or 4 months.
Not being in the classroom apparently hasn’t done anything to make me less cranky at the end of a school year. By the time June 1 arrives, I am more than ready to get away from the office to do something totally different for a while. I love y’all, but something’s gotta give.
This year in particular hasn’t been the easiest. I can call it a “learning year” and let the euphemism suggest what you need to know to fill in the blanks. Suffice to say, I’m glad to see this one wrap up and move on out.
I don’t have a lot of vacation plans for the next couple months but I’m gonna roll into June with several out of the ordinary tasks for my to-do list at work. We need a break. Something different.
I do wish Americans closed everything for a week around July 4th. Just shut it all down and go hang out with friends and family. Let’s start a tradition!
Featured Image: I’m calling this “Two Drinks In” — it’s how every day needs to end once you get to May. Nothing less works as an antidote.