314. As the School Year Ends

As June gets into people’s systems, things can start to change in a school. There are social dynamics going on, as well as individuals’ reactions to the approaching end of the school year. When people are caught up in it all, they can forget about some parts of it, and get obsessed with others. I’ll try to describe some of what goes on, and you can pick out whatever applies to the particular Junes you seem to experience.
First of all, there’s the excitement many people feel about the vacation that’s going to happen soon. For some teachers, summer can mean sleeping late, having hour-long lunch hours, not going to meetings, not writing lesson plans, not having conferences – being free from all the stressful things teachers must do from September to June. And maybe some teachers are going to do exciting things during the summer. So may some children and parents. If that were all that people were thinking about, June would just be a joyful month.
But there’s much more. The school year provides structure, and though that structure can be oppressive, there’s usually some anxiety about what life will be like without it. School is something to do, both for children and teachers, and it makes parenting a little less of a full-time job. And so people may wonder, even as they consciously look forward to the break, what now? For some people, summer has to be carefully scheduled; weekdays are full of camp, lessons, and all kinds of other activities, and weekends still end up being weekends.
During the school year, there have been connections between children and teachers. In June, children are often beginning to realize that the connections
won’t be much of a force any more. The more conspicuous behavior that results from this realization is some difficulty with control: why listen to a lame duck teacher? But there’s also some sadness about the impending loss; the teacher has been someone to rely on – for some children the only one to rely on – and what will happen when that teacher isn’t there any more? Even some of the misbehavior teachers deal with in June can be due, in part, to that sadness.
Teachers get attached to children, children to teachers, and children to each other. June is often a time to say good-bye. There are often tears – usually among children, but we teachers have been known to cry once in a while when we’ve ended a school year.
The physical environment of the classroom starts to change: teachers are more apt to take down old displays without replacing them. Materials are collected more, distributed less. Most teachers are too tired to open up new units, and they don’t want to end up with more stuff to put away, so the curriculum starts to look more like review and busywork.
All of this varies from teacher to teacher and child to child. Sadness, anger, relief, and joy fill the school. And then a bell rings, and the next part of life begins.

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