The classrooms are empty, hallways silent and each final grade recorded. Yet, the school year feels incomplete. When I was younger and a student in school I was the type of person who was actually a little sad when school was over for the year. That student is still in my classroom.
As sometimes happens, teachers receive praise from students or parents about the past year. Oftentimes, a teacher might respond with, “Well, the students are so great” or “Actually, I learned more from my students.” I have made similar comments in the past. Yet, I have never taken the time to really think about what I learned. At the end of the year especially, I ask students to share what they have learned. I would like to get in the habit of doing the same.
1. Students can learn without me teaching them. During the passion project students explored topics such as the meaning of life, World Health Organization, and the economics of buying horses. I never had a lecture or reading on any of those topics. Given guidance on how to ask questions, find information, and connect with others, students can learn incredible things on their own.
2. Students are good. While cleaning up my classroom yesterday, I saw the “Classroom Expectations” (read: Rules) I had posted at the beginning of the year. To be honest, I had forgotten what rules I had decided upon during the course of the year. Yet, students by and large behaved well without much mention of rules/punishments.
3. Students can overcome greater challenges than many adults can. In our community, as I often do, it is easy to think that everyone lives comfortable lives….because, well, many do. However there are other stories among my students this year as well. A student who had to cooked for and took care of his mother every day; A student who experienced the loss of 2 close relatives in just a couple months; A student who is helping raise her older sister and younger brother; A student with learning disabilities who spent long hours preparing for the final and far exceeded his average to earn his goal grade.
4. Students can seriously think about and care for real issues. Disregarding the warning others give about teaching a general, freshman social studies class, I learned that 14 and 15 year olds can actually care about things like: How do you end poverty in Africa? What role should the US play in the Middle East? What should we do with the Amazon rainforest? Students can genuinely care and learn about issues confronting the world today. Don’t underestimate kids.
5. Students won’t always do what you hope them to. Very few students would come in to seek help before/after school. Many students turned in essays whose quality was far below what they could do if given more practice and instruction. Few students developed a habit of reading/watching the news. There is much more students can learn to do that would serve them very well in the future.