Leaning Toward The Finish

photo 1 (3)As a teacher I was always proud that my students worked all the way through the end of the year. We read, wrote, and thought whether it was September or June. I gave finals. We had fun, September or June, and we also knew that school meant school, which was more than a search for that elusive clownfish, Nemo.

Walking around Diegueño this final week of the school year, I’ve been blown away by the academic activities I’ve seen. Hands on, active, and rigorous, these are lessons that would have been rich enough for any time in the school year, and yet here they were, piled up against the promise of summer, filling the students’ days with learning, even on the proverbial eve of vacation.

I saw this from where I stood, atop the dumpster in the back of campus, where I’d climbed up to get a tweetable photo of the larger than life sized grid an intrepid math teacher had his students plotting lines on in a friendly (but hard fought) mathematics competition. Were the kids invested? Some teams had coordinated uniforms. Laughing, learning, and building community, this was the kind of lesson that they’ll remember forever.

photo 2 (3)And, I would find as I walked campus, this was not out of the ordinary.

The next day I went to a science classroom at the invitation of a student who wanted me to see how his bridge held up against the stress that would test his application of engineering principles. Truth be told, it snapped beneath the weight, joining a pile of others in a graveyard of bridges on a nearby lab table, but the effort he put into the structure impressed me. The pride these 8th grade scientists and builders brought to their work couldn’t help but inspire.

photo 3 (2)And then I smelled something burning.

It turned out to be a boat.

Actually, it was a boat lab in the adjoining science room. When I stepped outside I found a cluster of students igniting the candles that powered their paper and metal boats. These creations shot down the watery course, a testament to combustion and motion. Only a few caught fire.

photo 4 (1)From Renaissance presentations to student blogs about the extended metaphors for 7th grade, teachers and students are learning. Sure a few more of the kids are a little distracted, but more than most are engaged: in book clubs, in performance tasks, in building and doing.

I’m proud to work where teachers lean in to the finish. Summer looms, and the smell just around the corner will be a barbecue …in a week.

Until then the smoke is coming from a paper boat.

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