How do you feel when your students are walking out of your classroom for the last time? I feel pride, joy, sadness, accomplishment and disappointment all at once.
This year my classes ended in a deflated way. At my school, in the last month about a third of our students go out on month-long trips, biking or canoeing or studying history and giving community service in DC. A great end to the year for those students, but my classes empty out and we’re left feeling like we’re studying something extra, something that might not really matter that much, that it’s fine that the other students miss.
I think it’s important to end the year with some ceremony. The students have accomplished a lot this year, but sometimes that gets lost on them if we don’t give them time to reflect on it. We have so much control over what they remember of the year in the way we spend the final days of our courses, and too often courses just kind of… end. They fizzle away. There’s some review, and then the final exam. If that’s all there will be, I want the final to be built up, so that the kids will be really proud of finishing it! They can’t just walk out.
But I forgot this until just now, and the kids just walked out. We did a lot of awesome things this year, but because we didn’t process it in any real way at the end, I’m worried the year will disappear in their memories.
By talking and reflecting we can control our own memories. Let’s do it intentionally! Let’s get the kids in a circle and talk about how their feelings about math changed this year! Let’s tell funny stories about the best classes and best projects and most ridiculous public mistakes! Let’s make diplomas or time capsules or something that can embody the otherwise ephemeral bonds that we’ve made this year.