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Where Did the Year Go?

[Editor’s note: Bronxteach is a fourth-year elementary school teacher. He blogs at bronxteach.com, where this post first appeared.]

Is it really June already? It seems almost impossible to believe. The school year always has its ebbs and flows, its points where you can’t see an end in sight and points where it seems the year is flying by. In mid-June, it feels like a little bit of both.

At this point in the year, teachers and students are literally counting the days to summer. Meanwhile, teachers are in a rush to get final assessments and all sorts of clerical work completed. On top of that, it’s our last chance to cram in a couple of projects, rush through that last one (or two) math units and get our kids ready for next year. So we’re in the awkward position of wishing the year was over, but wishing we had more time left.

As I’ve completed my E-CLAS assessments (a standardized reading test) it’s given me an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve accomplished this year, as I marvel at how quickly it passed. Last year, I felt I had a lot to be proud of. All of my students made at least a year’s worth of progress. In most cases, my students made approximate gains of a year and a half. This year, the results are much more mixed, and therefore disappointing. The mixture of emotions takes me back to my first and second years of teaching.

It’s this sense of disappointment that makes these final weeks all the more important. While I don’t expect to move up any of my students significantly in their reading or math skills in such a short period, I can hope to prepare them for the long summer and next school year. With that in mind, I’m doing my best to focus on the basic skills many of my kids are still struggling with. Throughout the year, the emphasis on getting students ready for the test means that fundamental skills like mental addition and subtraction are passed over in lieu of giving students other strategies to multiply or divide.

Besides basic skills, I hope to create a sense of closure to the year focused on a running theme of my teaching, loving learning. I want these final 13 days to be focused on project-based, interactive learning. My students will have a chance to reinforce some reading skills through literature circles, compose social studies and science reports, and conduct two week-long math investigations. If we can end the year in a challenging, but enjoyable way, I hope my students will leave the classroom with some momentum for next year.

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