May 1, 2017

Testing is Over...Now What (Day 1)

"Yes we will be learning today..."

Have any of you had to say that in the days and weeks after testing?

Have you ever been surprised by the number of students who are disappointed when you make that statement to them?

What about when a parent says, "we are going on a trip and we know you guys aren't doing anything anyways now that testing is over..."

Is it really over? I mean, looking at my calendar I see that we have four weeks left. That leaves a great deal of time for connections, extra opportunities and preparing for the students' upcoming transition.

Yes, I am aware there are some who have "thrown in the towel" for the year. Some classes will watch the entire Disney collection in the remaining weeks of the school year. I can assure though, that is not the norm. Many educators use this time to discuss and collaborate on great topics that may not be covered in the required standards. Others may use this time to try new innovative techniques that they have wanted to try all year. There are even some who "team-teach" with colleagues in different grade levels to mix it up a little.

Even with that, it is hard to convince people that the test does not determine the end of school. The mindset that school is over still exists but we need to change it. There could be many reasons why and some of those may be our own fault, but I like to focus on the HOW and not spend much time on the WHY.

So how do we change the mindset?

This is not necessarily going to be easy but luckily it is doable. Remember, we are battling a mindset that will be hard to change because it has been around for some time. And remember, this change will not happen overnight. You will still hear grumblings. Over time, those will be replaced with cheers of joy...ok, maybe too enthusiastic on that one.

OK, so here are some ideas on how to change the mindset...

Tell the World
Continue to tell your school's story! Make sure EVERYONE in your community knows that you and your students are still going strong and celebrate it. Let the parents and students know that learning will continue. In fact, be specific. Come up with a "schedule" that includes the time you have left with specific goals, topics and activities. Take pictures and videos and share regularly on social media. It wouldn't even hurt to invite parents and community members to come to the school and see all of the cool things going on. The bottom line, if YOU do not take charge in communicating and reinforcing that school is still going on, someone else will take that responsibility. If someone else takes charge, it will not be the story you want told.

We are all tired and that's OK.
There is NOTHING wrong with people knowing that we are all tired. Identify that early and let the kids and parents know they are not alone. We also need to be transparent and realistic about people’s stress level and fatigue but also honest about finishing strong. At this point in the game it is not about being motivated to continue but being disciplined to finish strong. Remember, enthusiasm is contagious but so is apathy. Dig deep, recognize that everyone is tired but maintain a level of enthusiasm and positivity to help keep the momentum going.

Relax...BUT Provide structure
The worst thing we can do is nothing. As much as people complain about structure, the truth is we all need it bad. We especially need it now when the mindset (hopefully changing) is one that says kids need to be free from learning. With that being said, it is also important to not burn yourself out either. Remember that more structure usually means less issues in the classroom which equals less stress which in turn helps with the relaxation. When structure is combined with relaxation, it is easier for students to be open to the continuation of learning.

Visit places - for real and virtually

Go somewhere...really. Find a museum to explore or go to the woods and do some exploration. You could get in contact with local businesses and industry and spend some time on career exploration. Also grab some VR googles or Google Cardboard and take some virtual trips. There is nothing wrong with taking some recreational trips (bowling, movies, etc) as long as the emphasis leading up to those trips is learning. Make sure your students know why you are doing this and again, let the parents and community know what you are doing.

Give the students a taste of the next level
When in doubt, collaborate with the grade level above you and work out some time to have the students talk about expectations. Although this is not necessarily academic (though you could use it for that too) it is important for students to see what they are getting into. Who best to fill them in than the students who experienced it?? Let the parents know too. Include these activities as part of your schedule. Emphasize the importance and make it something you do on a regular basis.

Like I said, it could take some time. But the key is taking steps to change that mindset. The best time is now...

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, "the time to hesitate is through."

In the next few days, four more educators will provide their thoughts and ideas on what to do now that the test is over. I can guarantee none of them will talk about seeing how many movies they can fit in during the next four weeks. Pay attention, because these ideas will be insightful and will provide things you will be able to implement now.

Tomorrow you will get to hear from Chattanooga Ed-Tech Guru Julie Davis. It is guaranteed to be insightful and could potentially have an immediate impact on YOUR last few weeks of school. Julie has a tremendous reputation among her Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter and Facebook and is someone you need to follow TODAY. Tuesday you will find her post at Thoughts on All Things EduTechie Oriented.

Don't forget to keep the conversation going. Feel free to comment and share. We would love to hear from you!


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