As this school year wound down, I found myself swamped packing things up. At my school, packing up is pretty significant as my school makes classrooms available for summer school courses. All teachers are obliged to clear away and lock up materials, and remove everything from walls and bulletin boards. This year was particularly busy as I was not only tidying up, I was preparing for my move to a new classroom (and a new subject).
One evening, I was complaining to my wife, Kristi, about all the work and she said something that flipped my complaints upside down. Kristi said that she loved the end-of-year ritual of cleaning out her room. The process, in her mind, was liberating as it forced us to go through our materials in a reflective manner. Rather than leaving the same old anchor charts up for years, or use the same old, same old resources, the end of the year provided an opportunity to reevaluate what we do. We can then keep what works and shed those items that need shedding.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how right my wife is – although, don’t tell her I said this. I will literally never hear the end of it. Anyhow, I thought about how, over the years, the end of the year pack up process has provided me with a chance to critically think about the year and what I liked and where I might need to make some changes. Certainly I have made significant changes in what I put up on my walls. I used to decorate my room (yes, I considered stuff on my walls as decorations, not teaching tools) with funny internet memes. Students got a laugh and they were a fun way to make connections with my students. But, upon reflection, I felt I could do more. My wife and I got really into the concept of Academic Language in the classroom and I replaced funny memes with models of academic and subject-specific language usage.
Prior to teaching, I spent ten years in the corporate world where there was no end-of-year ritual. I worked all year long, save for a brief two-week vacation. Things kind of just rolled along and any reflection was random, brief and, ultimately, short-lived. When I became a teacher, I was excited at the year’s end (mostly because it meant the beginning of a two-month vacation and non-student time!). But, thanks to the input of my beautiful, smart, and talented spouse, I have grown to appreciate the end of the year for more reasons.
The school year is long and intense. By June, it is tempting to focus on summer fun and rush out the doors when that final bell rings. If your school doesn’t require you to do a complete packing up, you might want to take a little time to look around your room and think about how you could streamline or bump up the effectiveness level. Sure, it is easier to save that for August, when you are refreshed and renewed. But, doing it now allows you to take advantage of ideas and concerns that are fresh and not clouded by the false nostalgia that a new year brings with it.
Do it for future you.
Have a great summer!