About a month ago, I had a revelation of what I think education should look like. It was just as the school year was wrapping up and my two sons were looking forward to long summer days and freedom (as a former history teacher, I resist the lecture about how many people fought for civil rights and real freedom). The state tests were over, the major push of extra help and review sessions was in the rearview mirror, and several field trips and fun activities were on the agenda. For 6th and 4th grade boys, these are the days they’ll remember.
My wife and I tried to stay on top of the logistics: who is going where on which day, what each one needs to wear and bring for lunch, and all the other plans and schedules parents navigate (or try to). I know the teachers responsible for organizing these trips also had 100 or more details to cover, and that’s one of the things I don’t miss about being in the classroom. Never mind the law, “no child left behind” was also my mantra for every field trip.
What struck me was the enthusiasm my boys had at the end of the day as they told us about their trips, their activities, and the fun things they did. They spent more time outside and had more collaboration between subjects and classes—and all of it was with the reduced pressure from not having that end-of-year test looming over their heads. Did they watch a movie or two? Yes, but I’m okay with that if it was something that was relevant and related to what they studied. Did they wake up and eat breakfast excited to get to school? Yes, they did, and that certainly wasn’t the case in the middle of May. So this made me think, “Isn’t this what school should be like all the time?”
We’re fortunate to live in a community that is innovative, creative, and has resources to support other activities and field trips. And I know that there are a lot of schools and districts that don’t have the flexibility we have. But as I thought about what the purpose of education is, I realized that the excitement my boys felt at the end of the year should be what they feel all year long. While I know I wasn’t perfect when I was teaching my 7th graders history, I tried my best to get kids interested in the subject. The greatest compliment I ever got was when a student came up to me and said, “Mr. Scott, I hated social studies when I started the year, but it became my favorite subject this year.” What if all teachers tried to make every day like the last weeks of school?