Any teacher knows that there's a lot going on at this time of year, as we head into the last few weeks of school. This weird 2020-21 school year is no exception, and I've been thinking about and working on ways to end with just the right mix of normal and festive.
The other day, our Head of School stepped into my classroom and added something else to my to-do list. Had I been thinking about the 8th grade promotion, he wondered? Usually, my 8th graders end the year with a speech unit, in which the culminating activity is to write and deliver a graduation speech. Then the kids vote on the best speeches, the ones they'd like to be part of their class promotion to high school. (None of this is my idea; I shamelessly stole it from the wonderful Nancie Atwell.)
This year, everything is different. We have a whole different curriculum we're using, chosen by our administrators to accommodate the hybrid style in which we began the year. I have half as long each day with my 8th graders as I did last year. Almost all of the ways I usually do my teaching have been jettisoned (and while some great new ways have emerged from this, and I'm proud of how I've made the best of it, in general, I yearn for how it all used to work).
So I was pretty happy when my administrator told me he'd like the 8th graders to write and deliver speeches for their promotion, as usual. He called the kids' work a highlight of past years and said that he can always tell I've worked hard with them. That made me feel great, and encouraged me to incorporate getting ready to start working on the speeches into this week's lesson plans. Already I've been enjoying what I always love about this assignment as the kids have been brainstorming things they remember from their years at our school. Their whole middle school time has been strange, since Haiti had lockdowns (for political reasons) before the rest of the world joined in when the pandemic started.
It's great to get to showcase the students' work and to celebrate what they've achieved so far in their academic careers as we get ready to say goodbye to them and send them upstairs to high school. And I'm excited that speeches from my class will be part of it.