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!