At the beginning of the school year, September through June seems like a deliciously long span of time in which to accomplish all the learning one has spent all summer planning out – organized and well paced, each piece of the learning puzzle exactly choreographed to move and fit and wiggle in to place. The longer I’ve taught, the more sure I feel of my footing in the classroom, and the better I feel I have become at pacing and judging time. At least, that’s the way I feel in September: calm, serene, confident.
By Winter Break, some of that “being sure” has worn a bit thin. Snow days, and the flu season have taken their toll; we have wavered from the “plan book” because children are curious about the world they live in, and want to know more (that, in my book, is a good thing), so we wander from the prescribed path and meander through their wonderings . I have no regrets about these wanderings, for I’ve found that these are the things my kids remember the most, the ones that show their thinking progress and mature from one conversation to the next. So, no regrets, but the beginnings of worry set in…June just seems to be getting closer, and…
By the end of March, with Spring Break right around the corner, and weeks given over to the PARCC, shades of panic begin to set in. Time, all of a sudden, feels very short indeed – June casts a long and threatening shadow. Will we get it all done? Every year, at just about this time, I am gripped by panic. I have a week of bumps in the road, and suddenly I am filled with self doubt and worry – there is still so much to do!
At some point, on Thursday afternoon, knowing that I would probably have to tend to my fever on Friday and finally see my doctor, I felt especially gripped by doubt and gloom. But then, I cast my eye around the classroom, and watched my kids at work. I started to remember our journey from September to now, and how they have grown as thinkers. They walk into our room with a sense of anticipation, get to work with a feeling of purpose, and share their thoughts and ideas with confidence. I need to spend less time explaining how things are done, they just seem to know it. When it was time, for example, to meet with their book club groups to figure our their reading plans, they worked with such efficiency that even I was stunned:five minutes to gauge the length of the book and their reading habits, negotiate their schedules, and come up with reasonable plans; then they found a favorite reading space and dove right into their books. I didn’t have to do a thing.
And, I think that this last piece is the one thing that lifts my spirits and keeps me hopeful about “getting it all done” by the end of June. My kids are primed for the work we do. They have the learning habits in place which will help us meander efficiently through the rest of our curriculum. Yes, we will need to keep working hard, but we can do so with a sense of comfort, confidence, and even (dare I say it?) joy.
Even though I am not as serene and calm and confident as I was in September, I know we will get through. Right now, I am going to watch that wonderful video Bonnie Kaplan made last year, when I (somehow) overcame the March panic and celebrated end of June joy: