As the spring semester unwinds into summertime and a respite from full-time teaching (for most of us), it’s hard to deny that school days transform. The focus of most classes in the last weeks of spring shifts from routines to special events and open houses, from curriculum to testing, and somehow, impossibly, from learning to “finishing”. But of course, we’re never finished learning, and when at last we arrive at our last day with our students, it falls upon us to leave them with some sort of lesson before we part ways.
I’ve never known what wisdom to impart or what words will be heard on my last day of any teaching job. Students are often halfway checked out already, and so might we be. While we as educators might be dealing with a little emotional turmoil, many students are just overcome with relief at the prospect of sunshine and videogame marathons. But then, we never know which of our students see school as a place of solace. We can’t simply treat the day exactly like any other.
Lately, what I’ve been doing, rather than only wishing farewell, is trying to remind students to make creativity part of their daily lives. I ask students which of them draw for fun, and encourage them to sketch all summer. For those students who love building or sculpting, I remind them that art can happen at home, too, and it can be for whatever reason they want it to be – the last notion I want to cement in any young mind is the idea that art must only take place in a classroom.
I don’t ask students to go ahead and make something of themselves, because that’s a daunting request at any stage of life. I just remind them that they might want to make something, make anything. At the very least, I plant the seed of the idea, knowing it may well be ignored. If a single kid feels validated or inspired, that job, at least, is finished.