It is standard practice in the profession to suddenly announce, “Only 23 more days left of school!” Everyone does it. Even those near and dear to Mr. Peabody. However, I’ll tell you why I don’t count the days: it doesn’t help. Even worse: it makes the last chapter last an eternity. Worst of all: it leads to imploding behavior (yours and theirs).

I prefer an approach more closely aligned with the buffalo, or rather the native hunters, deceptively leading their prey off the bluff. I learned this strategy while in Montana, where I crossed the border into Alberta and visited a great place called “Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump.” (Worth a visit for the simple fact they answer the phone in the gift shop with a glib “Head Smashed In?”).

Now, of course, my students are not prey. They are truly the warriors and knowledge is their buffalo. But hit this analogy with a few hammers and squint your eyes and stay with me. Like the Blackfoot warriors of Montana, I also have the greatest of respect for my prey.  But imagine if the Blackfoot warriors kept calling out, “That’s it, Little Buffaloes, only 23 more feet ’til the cliff!”

That’s all I’m saying. Look to the Blackfoot. And like our great Father, the insurance companies, deny all claims. If (when) your students ask, “Are we having an end of the year party?!” consider changing the subject. Come back at them with, “We’ll talk about that when we get there (exuding: whenever THAT is). We’ve got a LOT of work to do yet. Today we’re starting this NEW thing, NEW project, NEW unit.”

So there you have it. Lead them (and yourself) calmly and quietly off the bluff, all the while denying all claims. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I guarantee you will have better behavior in your classroom until the very end, your energy level will hold steady longer, and you will hit the summer running, feet pumping joyfully off the cliff, plunging into your vacation like the Sundance Kid.

4 responses »

  1. Jan says:

    Exactly right, Peabody. Upon Bubble In Test done I must have two hard days of the primal scream: “You are all entirely out of control. We are still in school for a long, long time. Get used to being in school forever! On day three the new morning arrives, and they’re all like angels once again, and I begin at that moment to cry real tears of joy. The kid with the Empathy Job immediately brings me a tissue. If there is one. (Peabody- ‘ya got another extra box?). I begin to flood them with stars and start making up things to say. Like, “Oh my! The Third Grade Teachers were telling me the truth! They noticed all of you WORKING LIKE THIRD GRADERS when they passed by Room 5 the other day. Here’s an important announcement- we are now a Third Grade Classroom.” I write four sequential assignments on the board. I explain how Third Graders are mature, focused learners. Politeness permeates everywhere – for another day and a half. Thereafter, if anything starts getting too wild like my classes tend to do, I whip out my cell phone video and tell them, with a most delightful voice, it’s for the Report Card Video.
    Exactly two weeks before school is over- WHEN IS THAT PEABODY??? I simply must surrender. I must just let go. I will let them just build stuff and play and we will dance around the Sequoia Tree singing. I will request lots of popsicles from the wonderful parents. We will go for a picnic in a nearby park. Oz will finally come out from behind the curtain and everyone will discover they already have whatever they’ve been mislead to think they must find.

  2. Misa says:

    Or Thelma and Louise.

  3. Uncle Rudolf says:

    I ain’t never going back, Thelma.

  4. soo hyun says:

    wish i had read this a few weeks ago. i took the opposite route (teaching neophyte that i am): i often reminded THEM that school was almost out so we could get ready for it. well, there’s always next year. if you have any wisdom about how to not make the csts the pinnacle of the school year at a title one school, i’d like to hear it. the day after the csts always feels like the bluff itself.

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