Countdowns are nearing the teen numbers on staffroom white boards across the country. During the first week of summer break, I always look back on my last few weeks of that school calendar wishing that I had done this or that before the year ended. Five years deep, I hope that I will not make the same mistake this year. Besides the learning that still needs to be covered, there are a few things that every teacher should do at some point during the last month of school. Below is a list of 3 things every teacher should do in June.
1. Let your students teach a lesson
There are always times throughout the year where you work one-on-one with a student or perhaps a small group and, after demonstrating and “teaching” a skill, your kids look at you with a gaze that says, “I am more lost now than before I came to you asking for help.” On these occasions, I usually try to humble myself and call on another student to come to my rescue. I acknowledge that their lack of understanding is because I was incapable of explaining it efficiently. In June, you should provide students the opportunity to not only help their peers individually but on a grander scheme. Instead of giving students a worksheet for homework in June, give them a task. Give Marcus the opportunity to go home and prepare a Math or Science lesson that he will deliver to the class the next day. This will not only engage Marcus in the learning process but will change the dynamic of the classroom and subsequently result in gaining the attention of the class. A student is teaching a lesson – sounds like a win-win to me.
2. Have conversations not pertaining to “school” with your students
I have spoken about this over and over again. Albeit this “tactic” would be more effective to start the year, dialoging with your students during the last month of the year creates a finalizing synergy that is vital to the schooling process. Over the course of a school year, your class is supposed to become a family. There is no better way to complete this process by talking with your students about things that diverge from the curriculum. The added benefit to this is that it may also serve to maintain order in your classroom. Inevitably, June will be the month of all bodies “letting their guard down” but when you do it in an authentic way, by having daily conversations, that ability to switch from “strict teacher” in June (which is probably ironic to students as they are just waiting to let loose) carries a little more clout when you can direct the flow of the class by switching back and forth from teacher to mentor.
3. Play, play, and play some more
Let’s be honest, being a teacher in June is a breeze. Besides the final report cards that you have to write, everything is pretty much over and done with. There may be a few class trips or a graduation sprinkled in depending on the grade you teach, but June is a month where the hardest thing to do as a teacher is hold onto the reins. Ironically, at the elementary level, “play-based” education is one of the new buzzwords being tossed around when educators make amendments to teaching pedagogy and curriculum requirements. So why not loosely experiment with this in June? This key isn’t just for elementary school educators either. The word “play” has fluidity to its definition: in the primary grades, this can equate to taking your kids to the school playground in place of an art period. In the middle school grades, it could mean giving your students the opportunity to act out (I should probably use the term “Reader’s Theatre”) a portion of a book instead of requiring them to analyze its significance through the pen and paper medium. And in high school, it can simply mean holding an English class in the ambiance of the outdoors or taking your Science class outside to explore the phenomenon that they’ve been learning about through the year. At some point throughout the year, the “drill and kill”, in whatever form it is delivered, should cease. June provides that opportunity to learn through different mediums while still maintaining some semblance of school culture.
Whatever your philosophy is behind teaching in the month of June, it should be understood that this month should provide your students with the opportunity to explore and stretch their learning. These three keys are direct take-aways that any teacher can read, take up, and deliver in their classroom tomorrow. Many teachers approach June as a month to simply just get by. Because of that mentality, the school year, while offering a finalizing moment of achievement or completion on the year, has a Monday Morning Quarterback feel during those first few weeks of the summer. Breezing through the month with an attitude of maintaining status quo in your classroom is fine I guess. But, June should be a month of growth; hopefully, these three things can help you gain that closure of the year that is often fleeting after a few years of doing this job.
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