End of the Year Check Lists

Last week, (as I was frantically setting up for our Drama Club performances) a faculty meeting was in progress. This was the day that the admin handed out the dreaded end-of-the-year check lists. Each year, the checklist seems less daunting, even though the un-checked boxes stare at me, without blinking, from my tiny cork board.  I like check lists.  There is nothing more satisfying than crossing out  a task, and moving on. Since this is a year of huge change for me, I began formulating a more reflective checklist for the end of another school year:

  • Say what you think about the system, without being aggressive or insulting
  • Laugh at yourself, because stuff is funny
  • Don’t be defensive, not everything is your fault
  • If it is your fault, apologize-no one wants to hear excuses-we are fallible
  • Use classic literature for reading instruction-everything can be adapted to appropriate age ranges
  • Did the kids learn from you today? How do you know?
  • Reach each child, every day (pie-in-the-sky idealism-check)
  • Get pedicures before wearing sandals-the kids stare at our feet
  • Talk about why skills are important
  • Watch all UNITED STREAMING videos before showing them to the class
  • Know when a child is sad, upset, confused, or frustrated-and do something about it
  • Re-teach skills that are stupid, because you probably didn’t do a good job teaching them the first time
  • Don’t do the exact same activities as last year-you don’t have the same students that you did last year
  • Re-use the jeans passes-get good tape
  • Say please and thank you to all staff-especially the custodial and cafeteria staff
  • Don’t lose yourself in the job
  • Don’t lose yourself in the job
  • Don’t lose yourself in the job

Most of these items remain unchecked, or maybe they get half of a check, on certain days. Except for the United Streaming one, I learned my lesson  two years ago. Thomas Edison invented the first motor powered camera. The camera was used to film…well, ladies dancing-with big feathers.

At the end of the year, I can’t help but wonder if I missed something. Is it really over? Did we really spend eight months together? Did I freak out about some who weren’t where they were suppose to be, and fret over enriching those who were beyond the grade level? Did we learn all that the state says we needed to? Did the kids get the idea about random acts of kindness? Did I show them that I truly love them all? Is this really my last year teaching 5th grade?

All of this reflection is prompted by change.  Change is difficult, especially when circumstances and events end, and the unknown is looming.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862), Walden (1970)
Nothing endures but change.
Heraclitus (540 BC – 480 BC), from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

This year, I have said good-bye to one dear friend, who is now in Omaha. She is my touchstone to my first years of teaching. I think about her every time something oddly funny occurs, and wish I had just another moment to teach with her.  I’m preparing to say good-bye to another friend, who is moving to New York. He began some powerful theater projects that made people “think” outside of their comfort zones.  Could there be a friend check list?

  • Don’t forget to show your friends how much you appreciate them
  • Do this before they move away
School starts for me next week. Here is my checklist so far:
  • Sit far away from people, and pray that there are no group projects
  • Buy too many pens and highlighters at Staples
  • Do not read the entire syllabus within the first five minutes of class
  • Do not audibly sigh when that ONE person has an anecdote for everything
  • Create a motivational playlist for the commute
We have eight days of school left. August will be here before we know it, and the worries of the new school year will commence. There will be a checklist for the beginning of the year. I’m sure I’ll philosophize it until it is beyond recognition.  Until then, my goal is to attempt to welcome some of this change.
Take one step forward, and breathe. Check.

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