The Final Hours
The end of the school year is filled with students driving motorcycles down hallways, a barrage of water balloons, book inventories and parents demanding that school remain meaningful until the last day. How does a teacher face this insanity without resorting to inappropriate means? Unbelievable demands are placed on educators during the last days of school. To survive everyone in the school needs to work together. Put down the bottle and relax. There are solutions to the end of the year blues.
To facilitate the nonsense, teachers need to work before school and after school to complete inventories and storage of books and equipment. Dealing with both the behavior needs of disruptive, agitated students and the requirements at the end of the year will drive any teacher crazy. If teachers try to do both simultaneously, they will not do either well. Furthermore, every teacher is going to need help. Teachers need to be able to work together to find time-out places for students too full of anticipation to control themselves in classrooms. This is much more effective than putting Duct Tape on their mouths which will get a teacher into trouble. Teachers need to develop interactive lessons that require students to move to enable them to concentrate during the final days of school. A good child is a tired child, or is that dog? Administrators need to design a plethora of activities to redirect students’ inappropriate behavior to more constructive modes. What about a faculty assembly, a field trip or a field day on the lawn? Help the children burn off that energy in positive ways. In all, the school needs to work as a team to survive the last days of a school year.
Parents often wait until grades for the year are already finalized to confront teachers about an assignment their son/daughter missed ages ago. To avoid this, teachers need to be vigilant during that final quarter to not only grade and record assignments in a timely manner, but to call or email parents often throughout that quarter about any lapses in their child’s academic work. There is nothing worse than being attacked by a parent the last hour of the last day about an assignment or project due three weeks before that the child failed to complete. Yes, the teacher may have done everything he/she is required to do, but it won’t make anyone less frustrated when that mother is screaming at the teacher. Please do not resort to the thoughts that are flying through a teacher's frustrated mind: “I put the grade on-line, maybe if you didn’t take your son/daughter on a Caribbean Cruise during the last month of school, you would have had time to check them.” Or even worse, “The only hope for your child is retroactive birth control.” This is like opening Pandora’s box. No one wants to face that kind of heat.
To curtail the hallway shenanigans, teachers need to stand in the hallways before school, during class change and after schools. Students are far less likely to throw those water balloons or ride their motorbike down the hall if they are being monitored. I know everyone is buried in make-up assignments to correct, inventories and polishing those desks, but believe me keeping the students from ripping down the building is more important. First, the make-up work isn’t quality work. A student working under duress pressured by an angry parent who forced him/her to complete a month’s worth of work from seven classes in two late nights, does not create quality work. Don’t spend more time correcting this swill than the student spent creating it. Second, completing the inventory is easier when there are not students or parents complaining. by saving the inventory for an early morning or an after school activity, it will be more accurate and teachers will be less stressed. Third, let the little darlings wash their own desks. They made the mess; they should clean it up. Fourth, administrators need to be vigilant about offering early vacations to students who are unable to maintain a certain level of decorum. Otherwise, it will be pandemonium as students compete for the most mischievous behavior. I have seen it all: a student who lit the school on fire, another lit a teacher on fire and one stacked picnic tables to create his own Leaning Tower of Pisa. Finally, the district administrators need to be more conscious of the problems faced at schools in the final days. This is not a good time to resurface the parking lot of the middle school making one hundred faculty and staff members park their cars on the street while parents, school buses and confused children wander across wet asphalt. Recess is not a good time to deliver a semi-truck full of playground woodchips and uninstalling and installing windows over the heads of high school students taking final examinations could be ruinous to their concentration. The teachers, the school and even the district have to work as a team to complete the last few days successfully.
Most importantly remember in a week or two teachers can lie in their hammock in the shade of their walnut tree sipping an ice tea or a cocktail. They will have time to walk their dogs or go to a ball game. Relax. There might still be a student in the boys lavatory without his clothing or a couple locked in an amorous embrace in the dumpster behind the school, but when the teachers lock their doors, turn in their keys and drive away for the summer, they are free. The students will forget the stress the second that final bell rings and “they are free at last.” Teachers will also find their freedom. If it is too late, there is always next year.