Friday, June 3, 2016

How I know it's the end of the May...

I can tell when there are three weeks left in the school year. I don't even need to look at a calendar. Based on the behaviors of our students, the communication from our parent community, and the exhausted looks from our staff, I can pinpoint the last week of May with 100% accuracy.

Summer is a very perplexing event for many of our fragile students. They know they should look forward to having three months to play, to be silly, to explore their interests. However, for many of our students, they're scared and have no idea how to voice their concerns. School is their true stability. They know we're here for them. They know the start time, the end time, and everything that happens in between. Once summer hits, their schedule shifts and it scares them. 

And when the stress of summer approaches, students behave in a variety of ways. Some will shut down completely. Why finish the school year strong if they're leaving? Others will emotionally collapse. What do you mean I'm going to be somewhere else for the next three months? For our departing for high school students, it's often worse. These students don't know how to handle the goodbye that comes with their promotion to 9th grade. Instead of celebrating their successes and honoring the relationships they've built, they actively seek to destroy their progress. They know they're leaving for high school. They know we're not following them to 9th grade. To make their departure a bit easier, they'll look to doom everything they've built. This practice is heartbreaking for the staff. Close to three years of notable successes are darkly colored by the failures of the final three weeks. It's hard for us. Crushing.

For our parents, the last three weeks of school are a stressful time. If their student is headed off to high school, they face a constant battle to remind their kid to run through the academic finish line. There's an increase in missing work, significantly more poor decisions made, and an unlimited number of "we were just messing around" comments shared in the assistant principal's office. This is increasingly frustrating for our parents and rightfully so. 

Here lies an opportunity for our parents. Do they (A) schedule a meeting with our teachers, counselor, assistant principal, or principal to look for a loophole to protect their student's grades and/or consequences (B) hold their student accountable for their bad choices and focus on how their student can make better choices in the future? Truthfully, for Union Middle, most of our parent community opts for the right choice: B. 

Logical consequences could be the best thing for a student who has made a bad choice. Some parents choose to excuse their student's behavior and instead battle our staff on an assignment, a bad choice, or the final grade. Perhaps they're nervous about private school. Maybe they are worried about their child losing an end-of-the-school-year activity. Some have even indicated that there is a school-wide conspiracy against their student. Whatever the concern, these are true learning moments where a parent can show their student that the bad decision they've made doesn't have an easy way out; that there are lasting consequences which don't necessarily evaporate as easily as they'd like. I wish our parents knew that their child is watching extremely closely during their office visits. If a student sees their parents excuse their school behaviors away, the wrong lesson will be memorized. Difficult days will resurface down the road. While it's hard to allow your student to accept consequences for the mistakes they've made, it can be the best lesson you'll ever be able to provide your student to learn.

For our staff, I try my best to not count down the remaining school days. I want everyone to continue the learning opportunities within their classrooms up until the last day of the school year. However, with students becoming increasingly challenging and the emails from various members of the parent community nitpicking their student's grades, any staff member can't help but count down to the final day of the school year. At all of my previous schools, I've counseled many staff members on these student and parent concerns, often surrounding a random assignment from mid April that wasn't turned in or addressing any requests for extra credit when the student hasn't turn in half of the daily homework throughout the quarter. Our staff truly loves and supports our students. There is a strong desire to work with our parent community as well. But now, during the last few weeks of school, it becomes increasingly challenging to make everything work and still find the strength to push through to June 9th.

It's the last three weeks of the school year. I just know it. The students struggling to keep it together. The parents who are hoping for a last second hail mary A-. The teachers looking like they're auditioning for a role as an extra for the Walking Dead. Everyone is exhausted. It's the last few weeks of the school year. 

And in 70 short days, we'll do this all over again. 

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