By Dr. Amy L. Holland, Geography teacher
Grimsley Junior High School, Bentonville, Arkansas
Dr. Amy Holland is a Geography teacher from Arkansas. She is a contributing Citizen writer (you can sign up here to contribute!). In this article, Amy discusses the end of year struggles
School’s Out for Summer!
Just kidding. At this moment teachers are still recovering from state testing or in the middle of it. Once spring break is over, a teacher’s world becomes a harried mess of lessons, testing, parent-teacher conferences, and self-evaluations. I haven’t even discussed a teacher’s personal life during the spring months. Oh, wait...we don’t have one. Our personal lives are on hold until after Memorial Day. The last day of school we leave the building like a bird who flew the coop, possibly not without a few feathers missing from those last hours.
It takes me a good two to three days to come down from the last few days of school. I have so many projects on my list, books I want to read, recipes I want to try, that I find myself a bit overwhelmed at my newfound freedom. My schedule is thrown off and to be honest, my own teenagers are home as well, needing my attention. So, after a few days I am able to wind down and relax and begin to focus on my projects for the summer.
So, as we dream of lazy summer days and fireflies at night, we must also make the most of the time we have left with our students. After standardized testing is over in April, many times I find the most difficult and rewarding moments of the year to be in the last six weeks of school. My students have spring fever, literally and figuratively. They want to be home for the summer yet have matured in their discussions and assignments. Classroom management is essential during this time in order for me to reach my students while not wanting to pull my hair out as well.
This time of year is also beneficial in bringing on the project-based learning assignments and choice boards. I enjoy giving my students applicable, real-world projects that show their own opinions and strengths. From designing social studies themed amusement parks to debating water policies and issues in the European Union, my students show their unique talents and speaking abilities.
Most of my students have matured both academically and socially to the point that the discussions are insightful and entertaining. In my geography class, I want the students to feel respected and that their ideas matter. I want my students to be comfortable in their own skin. I want my students to speak up and tell me what they think. They need this opportunity to learn how to express themselves in a respectful manner.
It is my hope that this self expression continues into the summer and the following school year. The training that they receive in my class concerning global issues and geographic representations should prepare them for life outside my classroom. My hope is that they find their voice, use their voice for good, and broaden their horizons even after my class is long over. And, if I lose a few feathers in the process, so be it.
Feathers grow back, don’t they?