The end of a year

We have five days to go. I find it incredible that this journey of an academic year is quickly coming to the finish line – or more accurately, getting ready to crash and burn.

It’s a time of year when every culminating activity that was ever invented gets scheduled: field trips, tests, report cards, field days, art fairs… you name it and you can find it in the last 2 weeks of school. It’s always been that way. The reliable routines that we used all year are constantly being adapted to accommodate one or another special event. After all, it is the end of the year and everyone is looking forward to summer vacation, right?

Wrong. Not all my students are looking forward to spending about 10 weeks at home. This is a phenomenon with which I became familiar the first year I moved from a white, middle class school to one where the poverty level was 92% – you read that number correctly. Children of poverty don’t always have fun in mind when they anticipate spending a large chunk of time at home where they may be hungry, beaten, spend large amounts of time in front of the electronic babysitter, or verbally abused. These kids aren’t looking forward to a summer of fun and relaxation.

One might think that, looking at 10 weeks of a less than idyllic summer vacation might cause a student to savor each and every remaining moment of school – a place of safety. Not true. Starting sometime after Memorial Day when the realization hits, these are the very students who act out in school. They hit, they swear, they bolt, they otherwise break every rule that they have learned to live with in our school community. Why? Because they are pissed off, frustrated, and most definitely not looking forward to those lazy days of summer vacation.

And those end-of-year activities serve as yet another reminder that we are approaching the danger zone – summer vacation. It is a time when juggling schedules and cajoling good behaviors out of really angry kids is nearly constant. For me, it is a time of exhaustion.