Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Challenge of April

April is a wonderfully challenging time in the classroom. As the days get longer and the air begins to warm, the end of the year suddenly begins to feel like a reality. And while the students are counting the days until Summer with eagerness, I find myself counting them with a sense of dread. How can I possibly complete all that I set out to do with these students in the few days and weeks that are left? In September, it felt like a lifetime that we would spend together, growing and questioning. There was space for endless possibilities. I searched all of my resources for new ways of connecting the students to their learning, testing and developing what I found to match it with the needs in the classroom. Twitter and now Pinterest were endless sources of inspiration and encouragement. 

But then comes April with its ticking clock of minutes left to accomplish all that I had dreamed. While I know at the beginning of each year that I wouldn’t really solve all of the problems of each student, I never cease to reach for it. Every good teacher that I know does. We are idealists, always striving to open doors or simply windows for our students. If one strategy doesn’t work, we try another. We talk to colleagues and share ideas. April, however, shines a light on the ways where we didn’t have success, bringing into focus the ones for whom our best efforts simply haven’t been enough.

One of the challenges of April is to not give up, to not simply pass over them because we have already tried our best and it didn’t work. They are still struggling in spite of our efforts. It is a critically important time of year for continuing to give hope to the ones who continue to fail. Our message can’t be one of frustration, but of encouragement. We have to keep trying, even when our Bag of Tricks is empty. Each student needs to feel seen and heard. She needs to know that I want her success as much now as I ever did, in spite of the barriers and distractions that she puts up. Students sense our faith in them or our frustrations with them. April, when we are tired and can become discouraged ourselves, is a time to remember our highest ideals for each student and avoid allowing the looming End of the Year to let ourselves off the hook. We must still give our best and challenge them to give their best.

It is a tremendous challenge, because April and May hold so many demands and distractions. There are always special events and unexpected changes in schedule, which disrupt the flow of energy towards the work at hand. They are usually wonderful events, but the impact has to be taken into account. The students often need to be encouraged to refocus on their work, which in itself can take time and energy. Then there is always a mountain of work to be assessed and reflected upon before the final comments of the year. All taking place while there are bright sunny days and warm air, pulling all of us, both students and teachers, away from focus and work. 

So on we go! May your April and May be full of hope and joy in learning! 



“The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do”

I read this blog post today and wanted to pass it along. Teaching is a job that , unlike doctors, lawyers and engineers, people assume they could easily do. They know what schools look like from personal experience and think that it doesn’t take much to accomplish the tasks required. And,  if we do our jobs well, it can seem almost effortless. Classes run smoothly, with engaged students and peaceful teachers.

The complexity is often overlooked. I love this portion of the blog post:

“Teaching is simultaneously instilling in a child the belief that she can accomplish anything she wants while admonishing her for producing shoddy work…

Teaching is convincing a defiant teenager that the work he sees no value in does serve a greater purpose in preparing him for the rest of his life.”

We are encouraging dreamers and inventors. We are supporting creativity and passion. We are bringing light to dark spaces and opening doors to closed rooms. We are seeking to remove the boundaries that limit each student, whatever the original source, so that each one can be the best that he or she can be.

We have to meet our students exactly where they are and  then build lessons that not only hold their interest but develop their understanding and ability. Sometimes, the purpose of the lesson is to simply practice necessary skills, but that has to be within a larger context that the students understand. We have to provide enough of the metacognitive framework to help them grasp why they are doing the work that we set before them.

Part of the challenge is to combine rigor and resilience with engagement and a love of learning. I find that I often build lessons that accomplish one or the other, but that the challenge is to create ones where students want to keep trying, even when they struggle at first, where the level of challenge matches the abilities and encourages involvement rather than creating discouragement!

Clearly a job not anyone can do without training, lots of practice, and a heart as big as it can be!