The vigilant relaxation of June

Teaching until the bitter end of June requires its own attitude and approach. We can’t give up the hard-earned order and structures but alternating vigilance and relaxation of the mental faculties is necessary or the month can easily go awry.

It’s that time of year: June. A whole month left of school, summer around the corner. I find this can be either an extremely frustrating or extremely fruitful time of year. The trick seems to be an intangible balance of vigilance about expectations for meaningful work continuing through the end, and a relaxed attitude with more than the usual amount of humor.

I’m finding I need to show students I’m willing to use the now-tired list of usual consequences for ridiculous seventh grade behavior but that if they’re with me, we can be more creative. And funny. And sometimes just plain understanding because we know one another by now.

I actually told a student who was making facial expressions at a boy across the room throughout the lesson to just stand up by her seat for a little while. She looked at me like, really? Then she stood up happily—this was now a fun game and somehow the problem stopped instantaneously.

Later that period a boy farted…silently. Students laughed and complained and moved away from him. This was not the first time he’s done it; I know him a little by now. I told him firmly in my teacher voice that he has special permission to step outside of the room when that’s about to happen. Students giggled at my frankness and then we moved on and were quite productive and thoughtful.

Other strange things happen around this time. Today during my tutorial period I was working with a group of students who write a lot of fiction and want help writing full-length novels. We were outlining and discussing ideas. The period ended and NONE of us noticed! Not me nor a single student! We were too engrossed in meaningful work. This has never ever happened to me before. Five minutes into the next period a colleague came in the room and asked what was going on? I was stunned to see what time it was. Embarrassed, I had to give them all late passes for their next classes.

All this is to say that wonderful things can and do happen in classrooms in June but June requires its own attitude and approach. On the one hand, we cannot give up the hard-earned order and structures we’ve used throughout the year. At the same time, we can’t stick to them exactly either. Alternating vigilance and relaxation of the mental faculties is necessary or the month can easily go awry and be a pit of frustration for teachers and students alike.

Here’s to that balance and a fruitful last month of school for those of us in NYC who teach ’til the bitter end of June.

 

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