Summer is right around the corner. Some would argue that it is even “here.” If you live in a state where school ends in May, than it is likely that summer has arrived for you. I’m happy for you and jealous all at the same time! In my state and city, we are going to be in school until June 24th. Yes, you read that right – June 24th. The last day for students is June 23rd.
Try teaching seventh graders in June. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the books are opening – something the kiddos aren’t too thrilled about…and neither are some teachers! Here is how I survive June:
1. I assign projects that are meaningful but F U N.
You read that right. If they have to do work in June, and I need to grade that work, let’s make it a win-win situation. I try to make it engaging and something that is not a burden to complete. The more passionate my students are about the work they are doing, the better the results are. Everyone wins! I get assignments that are amazing and they get a grade that is amazing. This means I nix writing crazy papers in June. Yes. Some assignments include – create a superhero with a backstory, archnemesis, gadgets, etc. in relation to our current book that has everything to do with heros OR develop and illustrate a poem that relates to a theme found within the novel we are reading, etc. At this point in the year my students have proven their writing skills, have worked to the bone (typically), and so I can come up with things on my own for them to do that still relate to the curriculum.
2. I try to bring in the JOY.
If I act like I am being tortured, they will do the same thing. The mood and energy one brings to the classroom is everything! My students consider my hyper. It’s because when I teach, I try to be. I will sing to them if they aren’t responsive (not fun singing – obnoxious singing that they hate but I love), I will jump around, I will act out the vocabulary words like I am in a one man game of charades, and pretty much do whatever I need to do to get their attention. They are sensitive to my mood, so if I come in with a positive attitude they reflect the same attitude.
3. I try to be creative. Improvise.
Sometimes instead of a vocabulary test, I will give them a vocabulary group project where I ask them to find a creative way to show me they know the words. This has resulted in rap battles, spoken word, plays, short films, etc. It’s sometimes so much better than giving out the typical test! But if I have to I….
4. I try to spice it up a bit.
My students love when I include their names in their tests. I have come up with ridiculous writing prompts such as – “Write a short story about a clown named Pumpernickle who became involved in a confrontation with Muffina, the queen of the Muffin Kingdom…” and so on. They usually burst out laughing and shake their heads, and then start to write. Sometimes I’ll let them share what they wrote at the end of class, which they typically get a kick out of.
5. I love my job. I do my best to be passionate and compassionate.
One of the reasons I don’t mind this beautiful chaos is because I love what I do. I know that I am doing one of the things I literally feel God has called me to do. That makes all the difference when you love what you do! I love the fact that for each day, the lives of students are entrusted to me! I have the opportunity to equip them for the world that’s out there in some capacity. What I do is so much more than just teach a subject, I am teaching them how to be successful in life. That is not a task I take lightly at all. I do my best to carry this passion into every word I say and into everything that I do, and when I fall short I ask God for His grace. I try to be compassionate as well. I try to remember that these are human beings I’m dealing with. People who have real feelings and emotions, bad days and good days, hurts and joys. This makes ALL the difference. This is what marks a good teacher from a great one.
Ultimately, I love my profession. If I had to teach in the middle of July, as crazy as it would be, I would still be filled with gratitude. My “job” is so much more than a job to be. It’s an opportunity to pour into the lives of young teens and to leave a mark that will last for generations to come. It’s not hard to teach in June, when you know you are doing exactly what you were meant to do.