As the days draw closer to June, schools slowly begin to prepare for the final week of school. Students, teachers, and parents begin talking of summer holiday plans. Next year’s academic calendar is finalized, and graduation commencement speeches thread themselves through social media feeds.
What if instead of counting down, we thought of these weeks as the time to count up ?
How do educators measure a school year?
Sarah Mulhern Gross, a teacher and contributor to The New York Times’s Learning Network, cites the most important number thus far in her teaching life: 68. “This year, my seniors are graduating. They are the first class I’ve taught in both 9th and 12th grade, and I’m their class adviser. Watching those 68 kids walk across the stage on Saturday will be the zenith of my year.”
(continue reading from the NY Times Parenting blog here)
Sure, the number of graduates is one way. I’ll watch 29 of my students accept diplomas this year. But that number seems empty as a gauge for looking back to August 2015.
I love what this administrator says about measuring his wild journey of an academic year:
I think you measure it in human terms – in terms of character. We celebrate not just the quantity of years of service these individuals gave to the School, but the quality of character they exhibited for students and staff. After all, character is not learned in textbooks or though TED talks but rather through the living witness of those who have it. I asked those at the assembly to ponder: did you surround yourself enough with people who are respectful, responsible, honest, and compassionate? What did this example teach you about yourself? What did you learn about your road to character? This is our mission. This is why we exist as a School. This is why the schools with the best teachers and leaders win. (Full text by Michael Fellin here)
In a highly wired educational world where we are always reading about more ways to ‘win’ at school, I find myself agreeing with one of the most powerful bloggers I know, Jabiz Raisdana, in his post Schools Are Amazing Places:
Take a look at your school and ask yourself how you can create opportunities born of your love and passion- opportunities for your students to be inspired. If your curriculum has you down, or if you are buried under mandates of which you have no control, find other ways to build a culture of wonder in your school. A poetry reading, a jacket ball league, a hands on science club, a coding club, a rock show, a magazine launch, a place to knit, plant a garden.
What if we didn’t measure our year at all? What if we curated and celebrated moments that cultivated wonder?
As Jabiz reminds us, education is already a pretty fantastic realm. As educators, we inherently believe that learning together, networking knowledge, and sharing ideas makes for a better world. We believe that a social discourse can inspire future leaders.
Let’s change the conversations and focus on the fact that schools are places to help kids become loving, kind, creative educated citizens.- Jabiz Raisdana
Eight Great Ways to Wonder about your school year:
Which lessons have served as the most inspired starting points?
Which conversations sparked further debate?
How many hours did students feel the flexibility to learn how to learn?
Do both students and teachers leave the year with new curiosities to pursue?
If we counted the ‘a-ha’ moments up together as a community what themes would emerge?
Instead of counting exam results, can we make sure every member of the community feels like they count?
How many times has any given student felt appreciated this year?
Does a teacher on the cusp of retirement know how many of her colleagues have loved working with her? (I’m looking at you, Glenda!)
The reality is, many of the most meaningful elements of any given school year are beyond measure.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to add to their measure.
On that note, I’d love to give an extended shout out to Glenda. She is the first colleague I’ve ever worked with during their last year of teaching. I have to say, that’s been a powerful provocation for me. Will I be as engaged, as thoroughly involved in my final year of teaching as Glenda? During her penultimate month of teaching, she was every bit as giddy and nervous about the final AP exams as a first year teacher. You can attend all the PD in the world, but nothing can train you to have that resilience of spirit. From here on out, I will hold all retirement-bound teachers to that ‘Glenda-standard,’ the ability to care fully, and selflessly, to the very last bell.
Thank you for teaching me that, and so much more, Glenda. I hope her retirement brings her even half the joy she sparked in her students. Her influence on her colleagues and students is beyond measure, but perhaps a few of them will join me here in counting up a few of the more precious moments. Feel free to tweet your #GlendaStandard highlight to @
Thank you, Glenda, here’s to counting up our final weeks together.