I have a confession to make- it’s been six months since I have been at my gym. Yes, in the past six months I have moved to a new house farther away from the facility, moderately strained my back, and spent my free time outside, hiking and walking, to strengthen my back muscles. Although I felt guilty for wasting money on the ongoing membership, it was a relief to know it’s an option for fitness when I have the time and strength to return. Well, the time came this week. I had a rough day, and I needed to get some stress relief. But it was over 90* outside, a typical Arizona spring afternoon, and I just didn’t want to endure the heat. I raced home from school, excitedly put on my gym clothes, and drove to the exercise facility. When I got into the parking lot, I was shocked- it’s been six months for me, but where was everyone else? The lot was empty except for two cars. Usually it’s full all the time! I hesitantly walked to the front door, which was obviously locked. There was a letter on the door, stating that the gym was permanently closed, “Effective Today.” How ironic- the day I return to the gym, and it closed FOREVER. I drove home in shock- what will I do? How will I stay fit during the summer months? Do I really want to drive an even longer distance to work out when I live one mile from hiking trails? I just lost 20 pounds- how will I maintain that weight loss?
My gym closing incident reminds me of how we only have a few weeks left to teach in this school year. My students’ mental gym will be closing soon… have I inspired them to continue their personal training? How will these academically fit children sustain their second grade knowledge and not lose their skills and concepts over the summer? How do I finish strong?
I am not a fan of “giving up” on academics after Spring Break and standardized assessments end. School districts tend to push the academic pacing calendar to teach all the important concepts before the standardized assessments in March and April. That’s great to get it all done before testing, but what do we teach for the last six weeks of school? “Oh, pre-teach the skills for the next grade level,” is what we are told. That’s a good idea, but we are not given any tools, curriculum, or ideas to do so. When you need to push the students to complete a full school year’s curriculum in seven months, you have exhausted students and teachers. So now you have an ambiguous plan to teach skills that aren’t at your grade level and frazzled, checked-out members of the learning community. How do you proceed to finish strong when the battle feels uphill?
Finish strong with the 3 T’s: team-teach, technology, and team-building.
Get your students excited about their upcoming school year by team-teaching with a teacher of the next grade level. Create a reading or writing unit where both classrooms can get together and collaborate. During vertical team-teaching, the higher grade level applies their skills and concepts as they mentor the younger students, and the younger grade level receives a rigorous yet attainable taste of the future. Combining grade levels also creates a well-knit school community as the students recognize children outside of their grade level. As we all know, the referral rates increase after Spring Break, and providing a vertical team building environment can decrease the friction between students during non-structured classroom time.
As the Chromebooks carts increase throughout the classrooms, so should the level of technology. I’m not talking an hour of math games while the teacher grades papers. Let’s take everything we learned throughout the year and apply it to technological projects!! Some end-of-year projects could include:
- creating a PhotoStory of their year, using photos, video clips, and written testimonials.
- designing a classroom quilt using geometry, measurement, and visual art.
- going on virtual field trips through Skype Classroom
- writing and publishing Ted Talks
Team-building is still important in the last month of the school year!! This is it… our last few weeks as a classroom family. What we say and do can create lifelong bonds when we leave the security of our classroom environment. Students can increase the rigor of the review and application of their grade level concepts and skills by completing STEM and/or Makerspace projects in collaborative groups. (There are a ton on Pinterest!) Creating book projects as teams can provide the students with lasting memories of friendship before leaving for the summer. Find ways to give back to the community while working together on a special hands-on project!
The end is in sight… let’s not give up on teaching as we renew our creative energy and finish strong!