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June, A Time of Reflection

June 8, 2010

As June comes to a close, teachers around the nation take time to reflect on the successes and failures of the school year.  June is the time we think back to patterns now recognizable in the instructional delivery, teacher-student connections, and conversations with parents.  We think of resources we need to purchase to make a certain unit more understandable to students, organizations we should contact for guest speakers, funding we need to acquire to finesse a certain concept we need to deliver.

We look back to the growth our students have made during the school year, both academic and social, because we are not trying to create an army of crack test-takers; we are trying to encourage, enable, and inspire a new generation of students to hold up America’s ideals of hard-work, creativity, and fair-play.  At this point of the year, we wonder if students are mentally prepared for the rigors and expectations of the next grade; will next year’s teachers judge us too harshly if the students do not enter their class with the knowledge required of them?

For public school teachers, many time our self-reflection takes into account the difficulties our students face in their day-to-day lives.  One of my students has been absent over 60% of the year due to family issues.  When he returned to class this week, half of his face was frozen.  “What happened?” I asked.  “The doctor says my face can’t move, but it might go away in a few weeks if I take my medicine.”  Bell’s Palsy.  Immediately recognizable.  This student has had so many issues to deal with in his life, and now this?  How do you measure the progress of a student you have only seen intermittently during the school year?

One way is to see if you can maintain, or even instill, a love of learning.  As a middle school teacher, many of my students are at that pivotal moment where they are deciding on whether to remain invested, or to check out of school.  You try to explain to them that as crazy as it may sound, school/education is the only way out of the trials and tribulations that define their short, challenging lives.  You try to make connections between the curriculum and their world today.

Are the students still engaged in school?  Are their dreams still alive?  Have new dreams been created?  Have we created pathways to help make their dreams come true?

Have we respected the places, both physical and emotional, from where our students come from?  Have we taught our students to accept their circumstances and not use them as excuses to not produce the best work possible?  Or have we gone too far to the right and become inured to the very real circumstances that the most marginalized in our society face on an everyday basis?

These are the heavy thoughts of teachers on the last month of school.

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