With April and the state-mandated examinations coming to an end, teachers and educators everywhere are rejoicing to the completion of the fourth and final academic quarter. For those of us outside of the education sector, you may be overlooking one vital fact that is missing in the statement above: summer break does not start until June. When standardize testing becomes the cardinal drivers for education, we tend to see the true dichotomy between ‘teaching for growth’ versus ‘teaching for the test.’ In most cases, once the big state standardize tests are done, it seems that there isn’t quite anything left to teach. To put it in a more severe perspective, that is a month-and-a-half where teachers and students are left in academic limbo.
While it is not uncommon to have leisure time such as watching movies or easy class sessions during testing, the reality of it is that there is still six-weeks left of the academic calendar. For many public education districts, crossing the finish line is simply getting the test booklets ready to exit the building. But as much as we can celebrate the ‘Have a great summer!” phrase with our students, we have to be cognizant and aware that school is not over. For many novice teachers, this can be an incredibly difficult concept to relay to your students, especially if you are a middle school or elementary school teacher. Instead, it is your job to ultimately reignite the spark and fire that your students have given you, but in a different way.
Now, let me first and foremost speak about the true challenges every teacher endure during this home stretch to summer break. To put it simply, our students have been sterilized in the mindset that the state-mandated examination, commonly referred to the Common Core state test, is the end all be all of school. As much as we can argue against this, much of the academic curriculum was designed for student performance and academic gains for the annual state test. This in turn forces many students, as well as teachers, to believe that school is over once testing is completed. With that type of dangerous thinking, many students are robbed of an excellent education, especially during the completion for the last and final academic quarter.
Now while you can think that teaching is over, you have to understand that it is just the beginning. With the last and final weeks of school, I would advise you to internalize and understand the importance of autonomy and freedom you can have with your classroom. For me, personally, I enjoyed the last few weeks of school. As hectic as it can be, we as teachers are somewhat liberated from the state-standards and are able to freely pick and choose various projects and assignments that you, and only you, would like to see your students accomplish. For my classes, these projects have always been built on the idea of research, writing, and presenting. In fact, many of my students would speak year after year about the time they had to get up in front of the class and discuss X-topic for their project.
While teachers definitely deserve that much needed break, make sure you understand how impactful you can be during those last six-weeks of school. Yes, it is perfectly alright to take a few days to recuperate your classes from testing. But, never let them devalue their education by treating those last few weeks as a free day. Instead, inspire true action and value in your craft. Create the leaders you know they are by investing. Once you do that, then you will know you have created change.