Written by Lydia DuBois, AmeriCorps Member serving on the Capital Area United Way Team at Capitol Middle School
"After this test, I'm not coming to school anymore," he said coolly, as if it was a well-known fact. I give him a look: "No way." I've adapted the "I'm-here-so-you're-here" approach with my students. The post-test school season is fast approaching. Even though when I was a student, I never spent weeks preparing and participating in cumulative state-testing, I understand my students' (and teachers') sentiments: achieve a goal, and sail smoothly, like a second semester senior would. We are more driven to work hard when we have distinct goals; it takes the utmost diligence and self motivation to work for the sake of working. After completing a big exam, or gaining acceptance to college, or getting hired at a new job, it might be easy to promise ourselves a grace period of smooth sailing. I also, however, believe that in any school year, the end is just as important (if not more important) than the beginning. The end is when we make our last impressions, and when we force ourselves to improve on areas where we might be lacking. (example: I will try earnestly to keep my backpack organized for a week, because this year, I have proven to myself that to become an organized person, I need to take time each week to re-order my backpack's belongings. Not everyone needs this same regimen. We all have different practices that enable us to be the most efficient.)
I'm optimistic that we can all finish the year strong- and not by simply coming to school every day. The passing of LEAP week can teach us something valuable: the most important learning we do is done for ourselves. Now that our students are done "showing what they know," my hope is that, coupled with City Year's energy and support, they can put forth the skills they've practiced to learn for the sake of learning. A lot of time has been spent practicing for their big moment. Now that the moment is over, the show must go on.
I look forward to discussions that enable me to learn from my students' questions. I look forward to class-wide debates on world issues. I look forward to scanning the room, admiring the improvements in the students' work ethic and self confidence. I look forward to emphasizing the importance of the end of the year: first, you need to show up. Next, show yourself that the end is only the beginning.