A common mistake I see with many, many educators is that when the end of the school year peeks its head on the school horizon, they begin to – how should I put this – well, they begin to “kind of coast”. They take it easy. They don’t stress, they don’t fret, they do not push the pedal to the metal but instead, they go into “Countdown mode”.
It’s educational quicksand and my warning to you is: Stay Away!
I’ll explain why. But first, some backstory: this educational insight hit me in the bathroom. (I’ll spare you the potty humor right now though, let’s admit it, I am really, really tempted to crack a bodily function joke at this moment.)
See, there’s a guy I see in the restroom practically every day… and every day for the past week, instead of greeting me with his usual, “Hello, Alan,” he has greeted me with, “Only 25 more days, Alan” – and then he adds a beaming smile.
“Only 24 more days, Alan.” (Beaming smile.)
“Only 23 more days, Alan.” (Beaming smile.)
Truly, it’s a great exercise for discussing the literary device of perspective. To this teacher, he sees the dwindling days as an exciting time, as if the torment of teaching will be over oh-so-soon for him and the joys of watching re-runs of Dancing with the Stars, or whatever he does, will begin in earnest. (Look, maybe he he’s a championship knitter over the summer, what do I know?)
The bigger point is that his beaming smile and countdown greeting are not filling me with glee but rather, they are making me tense. (I’ve written about this feeling before.) I have stuff to do, still. I have books I still want to read, projects I still want to tackle and on and on and on.
There’s still so much more I didn’t get to!
Obviously, our classes must reflect our varying dispositions. His class, I am assuming, operates at a leisurely pace whereby the students are, like the teacher, most probably biding their time.
My class operates as if, well, the classroom minutes matter. That’s a choice.
Ya know, we complain so much as teachers about all the stuff that isn’t right, that’s going wrong, that’s being cut or under-funded and so on and yet, here it is that we still have a patch of open road and some teachers are squandering their opportunity to do more, be more, teach more and so on, while others are not.
Really, the way I see it, there is only one way to conduct yourself as a classroom educator this time of year: be the type of teacher you would want your owns kids to have at the front of their class. It’s one of the best litmus tests you can apply to your own personal, self-reflective, professional assessment.
And if I would want my own kids in a class where the teacher is still demanding thoughtful, productive, hard work, then that’s what you yourself should still be doing. (And what parent wouldn’t want this?)
Really, why do the classroom minutes of late May hold any less value than those of early October? Of course, I am not saying don’t have fun. I have tons of fun. (But I do in October as well. Fun and rigor are not mutually exclusive to high quality schooling.)
Additionally, let’s be honest… I love summer, too. Really, I LOVE IT! (Maybe even more than the other teacher does.) But summer is not here yet… and there’s miles to go before we sleep.
(Hey, now that I think of it, maybe I can squeeze in a little extra Frost poetry this year. And connect it to this great article I read on Steve Jobs talking about how even though he is a billionaire on top of the world, he is still as driven as ever… because he feels, I assume, there are still “miles to go before he sleeps”, right? Ah, the possibilities.)
So much vibrant stuff is still available to do… with so little time so please, use the opportunities. It’s the stuff of which our careers are made… and our kids deserve it.
(FYI, I am going to host a free webinar on Finishing Strong next week (May 19th from 6:30 – 7:30 EST. If interested, you can sign up here.)