Head of Middle School Susan Palmer writes about the end of the school year, both how to approach the end, and what happens in the last few days before the summer.
I have often counseled my own two children about ending well – no slammed doors, no demonstrated loss of interest, no placing one foot out the door before the current responsibility has officially ended. It’s a good life lesson for our students to continue to give 100% even in the waning days of the school year, or a job, or a project. In schools, we often use culminating assemblies as formal acknowledgements of “ending well.” Of course all of the ceremonial recognition of the end of one stage of learning and the beginning of another are treasured moments, ones commemorated across the educational community at all levels.
In fact, “ending well” can be seen in the Middle School on a much smaller, but arguably more effective, level. Created by our teachers to promote a synthesis of knowledge and skills, these activities are fun, positive, and upbeat. Last week, sixth graders participated in the Amazing Race, where they raced across campus to stations that required them to recall some key piece of history knowledge from their year. Fifth graders planned and designed poetry cafés, hugely successful gatherings for parents where students highlighted their own poetry in the midst of a café complete with food, decorations, programs, and more. Seventh graders presented “happiness projects” – culminating activities stemming from advisory study of positive psychology. And eighth graders ended their year with scenes from Shakespeare, student-created videos, a one-act play, final musical concerts, and more.
All of these final events represent high levels of student engagement. Their teachers have created opportunities for them to stay the course until the very end. Our students end the year proud of their accumulation of knowledge and skills, active participants all. Built-in reflection is a critical element of learning, and students who can look back at how far they have come will be ready for the next set of challenges.
Last August, we challenged the students in the Middle School to take action, to find a way to make a difference and to be the difference. In ways big and small, they have met this challenge. They and their teachers have come to the final few days able to look back and assess all that they have learned. It’s been a wonderful year and it is definitely ending well!