So we come around to the end of another year in school and I am looking out at my students and I am asking myself the same questions I have this time every year, especially for those “moving on” or who I will not be teaching the next year.
- Do each of these students know how much I love them? How? What have I said or done to relate that decision I made to love them even before any of them (these days) were born?
- Have I given each of these students hope? I am a tough and demanding teacher. Do they sense that even if they barely squeaked by or made even a failing grade, that in Christ there is hope? Have I strengthened or weakened their faith?
- What single trait in each student has been most encouraging to me?
As I ask these questions, I then have to challenge myself to end the year well, even if I am not pleased at the moment with some of these answers. I often wind up the last few days with one of those class hours which has no formal “plan.” It is during these times that I try to listen. To hear what they have to say about themselves, myself, the school, life, their dreams and goals. Sometimes it has come back to me that though most of the year had been difficult and trying, these last few minutes of the year had “saved” it all for them. In many cases they were able to see that the “hardness” of my class was in fact the expression of my love for them and my desire to see them rise higher than they ever thought possible. I think that makes it all worth it.
Something I have done in the past and seen others do very well, without falling into any smarmy “everyone is special” type of traps has been to end the year with fun but poignant “awards” or merits for their classes. One of the most coveted of these for my students has been the “You Ask Great Questions” award or the “You Make Me Laugh” medal, both of which still sit on some kid’s shelves. This got me to thinking about what kind of such awards could I award in my current state of teaching mind:
- The Great Inquisitor – for the student who regularly teaches me the most with their questions
- Rhetoric Cop – catches the teacher using poor grammar or communication skills
- Who Needs Spell Check – for the student who most consistently spells well on anything other than a spelling test.
- Extreme North of the Compass – for the student who actually can find the country we are discussing on the map regularly
- Calvin Inclined – for that student who takes great delight in giving the teacher fashion and wardrobe input
- Einstein Ability of Relativity – to that student who can bring any subject in the world or especially our current lesson and make it apply in some way to their favorite subject. Ex: “Mr. Elliott, did you know that the Dallas Cowboy’s were using the 14th amendment to the Constitution when they signed Terrell Davis to their team?”
- An Award About Nothing – to the young Seinfeld who always seems able to fill out our class with pithy observations about nothing in life. The Minion of Minutia might be a better title.
- Johnny on the Clock – to the student who every day tells you its time for class to end
- Sick Elephant Award – for the student best able to bring up some favorite topic of the teachers every day so as to get us to Johnny on the Clock that much faster. In my class, this would the student who finds a way to reference U2 everyday.
Of course the list grows and changes. If one can find a humorous way to highlight the strengths of their students, it often can be great. I would love to hear other ideas and thoughts on the subject of sending your students home well for the summer.