last day

The final teacher day: It’s all about getting out of there

Today we began our day by gathering in the cafeteria for a breakfast and a short faculty meeting.  We speak of summer plans.  We also talk a bit about next year’s needs but we make an effort to not obsess about it.   Already the pressure is gone with knowing there is no class to prepare for.  There are no more tests to grade.  There are no more labs to prep.  No more lessons to plan.  It feels good.

We spend our day clearing out our rooms.  A student arrives to work on his extended essay in Biology.  We sort out his supplies and make a game plan for August.  I make my way through the desk, shelves, and lab space.  I have to admit, there are moments where the through creeps through my mind, “I am never getting out of here” as I see the mounds of papers needing sorting, dirty lab supplies, the living organisms, odds and ends, and just STUFF.  I realize that even though I really love my job, I’m ready for a break.  My checkout sheet is signed.  I just want to go home.

Teachers assemble on the playground just after 2:00 with smells of the BBQ wafting through the air.  The sun beats upon us and it does, indeed, feel like summer.  Being outside clears our minds and allows us to truly focus on what lies ahead.  I make my way around the group, trying to touch base with as many people as possible, especially giving my good wishes to staff members who won’t be here next year.

“Well, I need to go pack up my fish and stuff” I remark to a small group as I prepare to return to my classroom.  A colleague bursts out in laughter, “If I had a dollar for every time I said that…..’pack up my fish and stuff’”.  He’s genuinely amused.  I guess we’re all feeling lighter with another year behind us and summer plans upon us.

The school feels absolutely empty by 3:30.  After my turtle and fish are ready for transport, I load up a cart, say my final good-byes and lug my things to the car.  It’s 4:00 and pretty much everyone is gone.  There is a silence.  You can feel that everyone is both physically and mentally gone from the school right now. 

What is it about our profession?  Why are we so wiped out by the end of the school year?  Truthfully, the two months without classes hardly seem enough to fully recover! 

Once home, I set up the fish and turtle for their temporary summer residence and I relax.  No emails.  No planning.  No reading.  It feels good.  Though many of us will engage in school related activities this summer, I wish teachers everywhere a relaxing, refreshing, and energizing summer!

Fish and Turtle, settled into their summer residence.

The Last Days

“We understand that it’s the last day and it’s beautiful weather outside but we need to take care of some things”

Their faces fall and they sink into their seats as they predict  boring class time coming their way.

“We will be doing an egg drop today”

Students sit up straight and tall, immediately curious.

The parameters are set, groups are assigned, and suddenly the students can hardly wait to get started.

The last few days of school are always somewhat of a conundrum.  A teacher ponders how best to handle the last hours with classes.  Personally, I want each day in my classroom to be productive, useful, and worth a student’s time, even the last days of the year.  With this goal in mind, a tradition has evolved: the egg drop. 

Students receive a set of supplies and work in teams to construct a structure that will protect a raw egg as it is dropped from the highest point available.  Of all surviving eggs, the structure with the least mass then wins. 

“Is this physics?” one girls queries, as though she’s discovered a trick we’re playing on her.  You know, like when a child suspects a parent of sneaking spinach into a fruit smoothie?  However, her skepticism gives way to the thrill of competition and the curiosity of the challenge and, in the end, her group wins!

We launch our eggs from the roof of the school.  Confidence, anxiousness, skepticism, and hope are all present. The launchers, one at a time, carefully place their eggs and count down.  Eager students below observe, film, and time the descent of each egg.  Celebration ensues as eggs emerge from their capsules unscathed.

“What’s the prize?”

“A place in the egg drop’s hall of fame”

“You have an egg drop hall of fame?” The students were clearly impressed by this.  I decide to not admit that I just made that up on the spot.

My colleague did manage to snag some muffins from the cafeteria so the winning team ends up with a muffin for each member.  It is enough to yield an eruption of cheers from the winning team. 

I have to admit; this morning as I was rounding up supplies and preparing for the egg drop competition, I questioned my sanity.  I thought about teachers around the world who pop in a video or have a party on the last day.  While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, in fact, I envied them slightly, I just can’t bring myself to spend the last day that way.  I have an obsession with “feeling productive”.  On the flip side, I also can’t bear the thought of carrying on with another strictly academic lesson.  And I know the students wouldn’t be up for that either.  They’ve long checked out for the summer.  Their lockers are empty, their pink check-out forms signed, and yearbooks are clasped tightly in their hands.

So, this is my compromise: an egg drop competition.  It’s a success each time it’s conducted. My early-morning doubts are quickly dispersed as I observe students engaged and in debate about the best design.  My colleague, students, and I rejoice together as we head out for the egg drop itself.  It’s just plain fun.  Plus, the weather is gorgeous: full of warmth and sun.  At the end of the day, we all feel good.  Students analyzed, designed, thought critically, and participated in teamwork.  For me, that’s good enough for a last day of class!