The month of May always brings about the hurried pace of wrapping up lessons, scheduling end of the year field days, finishing up final report cards, and putting away supplies for the summer. Each event marks its place on the calendar with an equal sense of urgency. While reflecting upon this past school year, I couldn’t help but notice how the sense of urgency had seemed to permeate its way through every month. The pace of each school day seemed unusually frantic.
As educators, we are familiar with implementing new mandates, new curriculum, evaluations, and testing. We are pretty good at catching and juggling the many balls that are thrown our way. This year however, I dropped more balls than I care to admit. As the year progressed, I just couldn’t seem to maintain the rhythm I needed to juggle successfully.
It was toward the end of February when the balls in my juggling act collectively fell out of the air and tumbled down out of my reach. I was handing out one of the umpteenth mandated practice tests –yes I am aware that umpteenth isn’t a word- when a very sweet mannered student looked me straight in the eye and said, “Not again. What are you trying to do…kill us?”
Good question. What was I trying to do? I was trying to be a good soldier. I was trying to be compliant. I was trying to do what I had been told needed to be done to make my students successful on the spring test.
As my juggling act came crashing down around me, it suddenly became very clear to me that if I was going to save my students from remembering their third grade year as the year their teacher tried to do them in with practice tests, I had better change my act.
Within the following week, I gathered together my favorite books for literature circles and resurrected the writing workshop. We returned to going outside for mindful walks so we could think about what we were going to write. We took time to play community building games and we researched science topics so we could write books. New homework assignments came to life when choices were given on ways they could be completed. In turn, kids delivered their homework on power points or as animated picture streams on iPads. It didn’t take long before my students were engaged and excited about learning again. It didn’t take long before I was successfully juggling all the balls in the air with the same enthusiasm they were exhibiting. Smiles and laughter soon took the place of moans and groans.
Years ago, my mother had advised me to always be true to myself. Those are simple enough words, but not so simple to do. When I tried to teach in a way that made no sense to me I was not being true to myself…or my students. As long as I am in the classroom, I will continue juggling. As long as I stay true to myself, I will have the rhythm and stamina to keep the balls in the air. Well, most of them anyway. Next year there will be new balls, new challenges and new students. One thing that will stay the same however, is my ability to be true to myself. I won’t forget my mother’s advice again.
Next year I will be leaving third grade and returning to first grade. I have missed the curiosity and wonderment of the little ones. I know my first grade students will provide me with plenty to write about next year. I look forward to a relaxing summer with a pace less hectic than this past year. Summer always recharges my batteries and creativity, and of course, provides so many hours of joyful reading.
I hope all of you have a great summer. Please take time to read, reflect, and recharge. In closing, I would like to share some lines I pulled from my students’ May metaphor poems. My students never cease to amaze me.
A memory is a wolf,
Hunting for thoughts to be remembered.
Sadness is a boomerang.
You try to forget,
But it comes right back to you,
Bringing you more sadness.
Love is honey,
Sweet as sugar,
Gooey as a kiss,
The color of sunshine.