From The Heart,Holidays & Seasons

Is Your End of Year Countdown Hurting Your Students?

I wrote this post way before the countdown debate began. I’ve since pulled it from my blog and wavered back and forth on whether I should make it live again and as you can see, I’ve decided to make it live. I hesitated because I didn’t want to be labeled as someone who shames others. That notion is far from who I am as a person and an educator. I’m a firm believer that we should never stop learning. In an era where so many opinions are floating back and forth, I wanted to share another perspective because of where I come from and also where I have had the privilege to teach.
The end of the school year is near and all we want is for Summer to arrive, but could our end of year countdown be hurting our students?

Let me preface by saying that this post is not intended to shame anyone into feeling like what they do is wrong. It is another look at things; a different angle so to speak. If you do not work with a population of students that may be directly or indirectly affected by a countdown, then this post may not pertain to you. If you read my blog and my about me, you will discover that my number one priority is the students. It is my endeavor to offer my students the best education they can get as well as partnering up with you, my fellow teacher, to learn from one another. So please see my heart and take it for what it is: A hard look at what a countdown can do to some students if we are not mindful. Keep in mind that I myself do a countdown, so my post is not intended to deter you from doing one but instead to analyze the form in which you do it. Why? because I had to take a hard look at myself and my students and realized that I was inadvertently hurting them and if we can’t change our practice to better ourselves and our students-how effective can we be?

Now on to the post…

Everyone is excited. Summer is around the corner!  End of the year packets are being prepped, end of year countdown numbers are getting posted on the classroom walls, and kids are being reminded that the end is near. Naturally, May or June rolls around and teachers are fried.  They are NOT tired of their students, they are NOT tired of teaching, and they are NOT tired of making a difference.  They’re simply tired, and at this point, one week off isn’t going to cut it.
The end of the school year is near and all we want is for Summer to arrive, but could our end of year countdown be hurting our students?
So, let’s go over this again-you are NOT tired of the students, teaching, or making a difference. BUT (and it’s
a huge but), that is what your actions may be telling your students.  Some students will ride the excitement wave with
you and even be more excited than you, but not all students feel this way.  The constant talk of the end, and
end of year countdown can be detrimental to some kids.  You may be thinking, “Don’t be such a drama
queen; it’s not that serious”, but sadly-it is.
Don’t shrug it off and stop reading just yet. The reason why it could have adverse effects on the kids is most likely because the support and instruction they’ve received from their teacher (you) has been outstanding!  Let’s look at what students have all year long, but some may not have over the summer.

Stability

According to Greendoors, a non-profit working to prevent homelessness, on any given night about 643,067 people experience homelessness in America.  Of those people, 238,110 are in families. That number is staggering.  Think about it, what percentage of that statistic is made up of students who walk in through our classroom doors every day? Some students’ lives are very unstable. Shoot!  My life can sometimes be unstable, but I have something that many kids don’t have-I know how to cope and self-regulate.  School offers stability, and children thrive when they are in stable environments.  Knowing that the school year is almost over can send a student into panic, because they don’t know what the future holds for the next two months.  Maybe you don’t have any students who are affected by homelessness, but that does not mean they may not face instability.  Some kids may have stable home lives, but they don’t deal well with change. To go from spending 6-8 hours in a classroom knowing the expectations, to having hours upon hours of free time can be jarring for some students.

Food

According to Feeding America, in 2014, 21% of children in the US lived in poverty and 15.3 million children lived in food-insecure homes.  I know the data I’m throwing at you must be mindboggling, but it is undoubtedly the reality we face today. Most schools offer breakfast and lunch, and some kids eat the lunch in the cafeteria knowing that their next meal won’t come until the next morning.  This post just got really depressing, right?  This is what teachers
see on a daily basis in some classrooms. Some schools may have only about 1% of the population facing poverty,
while other schools are fully composed of poverty stricken children.  A teacher’s end of year countdown could mean countdown to summer while a student in that same classroom is counting down to the day when they know they will no longer get consistent meals.  Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?  If you’ve never heard of it, the premise is pretty simple.  When people’s basic needs, such as food, water, and sleep, aren’t being met, it’s increasingly hard for all other things to take flight.  Think of yourself on one of those mornings when you’re exhausted and there is no coffee in sight.  Yeah, that. #TheStruggleIsReal

Nurture

Teachers, you have a heart of gold.  That may sound weird, because I’m a teacher and I’m basically praising myself.
But I know what I offer my students every day.  I know the care that goes into shaping minds and souls.  You see, teachers not only teach the mind; they also nurture the soul. Hugs, attention, and kind words go a long way and can have lasting effects on a child.  Most adults can think back and remember at least one teacher that made them feel like they mattered.  Go ahead, think about it.  I bet you can name at least one teacher that had a positive effect on you.  Some students go home for the summer and they no longer receive that.  I’m not saying our students, your students, have bad parents.  I’m saying that everyone comes from different walks of life and your reality may not be someone else’s. You make every day count with your words and your actions. Your countdown may remind students that they will no longer have your tender love and care.  You do things every day that nourish their souls and sometimes don’t even realize it.

Are End of Year Countdowns Bad?

This post may make you think they are, but it is not what I’m trying to illustrate.  Am I judging you if you do a countdown?  No way!  I’m counting down too because I am DESPERATE for Summer to get here. Countdowns are exciting and can be positive, but they need to be mindful.  In fact, countdowns are probably necessary because abrupt ends are not beneficial either. So what am I suggesting? Research different ways that you can countdown with your class and depending on your students, choose the countdown that would be most effective for them. Make the end of the year a positive challenge.  Focus on the things the students have learned and highlight them. Do special projects that focus on what the students have accomplished.  You are guaranteed to enjoy the rest of the year a lot more if you focus on the exciting things you can do together.

You’re almost at the end. Hang in there.

Happy End of Year,

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Linda Nelson @ Primary Inspiration
    May 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Good thoughts, Kendwy! I totally agree that "countdowns to freedom" can be discouraging to some of our students and detrimental to learning, too. Thematic learning (ocean, beach, camping, etc.) can keep interest high without losing the potential learning time. It helps to remember that the last 20 or so days of school are equal to 20% of the school year – and that's a lot!
    Linda

    • Reply
      primarycornerstone
      May 8, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Yes, Linda! You're so right. I love the thematic focus at the end. The kiddos love that! Countdown to "freedom", that's exactly what we sometimes portray 🙁

  • Reply
    live laugh love to learn
    May 13, 2016 at 2:10 am

    We countdown to make every last day count! It's more of a celebration of the time we have left – I don't want my kiddos to leave! 🙂

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