Spring is a conundrum. As gardeners and farmers prepare for a new growing season, teachers plan how to wrap up their growing season.
Many students are caught in a conundrum, as well. They are headed to the next grade, maybe a new school, but some want the comfort of what they have known for the last year. They wish for the freedom of summer, but secretly mourn the loss of consistency and routine of the school year.
Such conflicting feelings and emotions can bring on spring fever. The years I was in the classroom, in mid-May I began preparing students for the end of school by focusing on three important things: Reflecting on our past year; acknowledging who we have become; and dreaming about our future.
One student, Sam, had taken most of the school year to connect within our community. He had an autism diagnosis, and had a hard time fitting in, but our advisory community grew to accept him and his idiosyncrasies. He shared about the same topic again and again: radio-controlled cars. And every time he shared, the class listened intently and asked questions.
Near the end of our school year, we did the activity News on the Fives during sharing. In it, each student gets five minutes to tell what they hope to be doing in five, ten, and 15 years. We left it wide open as to what they could present.
What Sam presented left us all speechless. He started by acknowledging how much he had learned by being with his classmates. He explained that he came to feel like a “normal” kid and would never forget this year. Because they asked him questions about his cars, he felt that his classmates really wanted to get to know him. He went on to say what he would do in five years, during high school, but it was the ten-year segment that stopped us in our tracks. He said he would like to become a teacher—maybe a special-education teacher—because he wanted to create a classroom like the one he had spent the year in. He wanted kids to know what it felt like to be treated the way he was.
In his short five minutes, he schooled us all in how to handle the endings and the beginnings—moving from the end of one school year to the start of a new one, or any transition that prompts us to reflect and learn from experience. He had made the most out of a safe space in advisory and supportive classmates.
Scott Tyink has helped to design and facilitate Developmental Designs workshops, consulted in middle schools, and coached teachers for more than 10 years. For 14 years, he taught adolescents in grades 5 through 8. He co-organized, directed, and taught in La Crosse, Wisconsin’s first multiage middle-level charter school, where he developed curriculum that integrated arts and technology to inspire and challenge students.
Posted May 2014