When the IB exam season kicks in, every year I think about this term coined by Joe Lumsden, Secondary Principal at Istanbul International Community School and previous colleague of mine. End of year madness. It is hard not feel it: modified schedules, exams, final report cards and transcripts, finishing the master schedule and calendar for the following year, reviewing handbooks and guides, celebrations, end of year parties, award ceremonies, graduation, IB grading, step-up days, connecting with recently recruited teachers who will join our school our school, preparing to say good bye to colleagues and friends…the list is endless. During this “madness”, however, it is crucial to pause and reflect upon the year. It does sound quite obvious but it is challenging as so many things get in the way. But since we encourage our students to reflect upon their learning, we need to model this practice. It does not have to be a complex process and I am a big fan of this simple 3 question reflection:
1) What went well and why?
2) What did not go so well and why?
3) How can I improve my craft based on 2) and use that to create my professional objectives for next year?
Setting this expectation to all of us and achieving this before the end of the year is essential and if this becomes a priority we need to make time for this. In our school, all our High School students present a capstone presentation when they reflect upon their goals from the beginning of the year. They present their reflections and evidence in front of their mentor, their parents and some fellow students. I am now wondering what keeps us from doing with this faculty.
Furthermore, students feel this end-of-year rush too. It is quite usual for High School students to feel completely overwhelmed in this last stretch with final exams, projects and SAT’s in the pipeline. What we do we do as schools to minimize this? By putting some many things at the end, are we really focusing on the learning journey or are we just repeating over and over again those end-of-year traditions where everything is mad. Do we take the time to give robust feedback after final exams or is everyone already thinking of spending their time on the beach? And if so, how meaningful are those final exams? Is the only point of those to give a final grade?
Instead of feeling so rushed at the end of the year, students, parents and educators should be spending time to think back over their year growth and to think ahead of the future learning opportunities. Current set-up in many High Schools, however, is not conducive to this since we end up packing so much stuff in the last weeks that it is sometimes only there because “those are the kinds of things that we do at the end of the year”. As we are finalizing next year’s calendar, I really want to have a good look at this “stuff”, question its relevance and offer some alternatives to make sure that we all end the school year with our brains switched on to meaningful reflection to continue to grow.
For what it’s worth…