Editorial: School's Out for Summer

by Dr. Jill Klefstad - UW Stout

So, it appears that the end of a year is just about as hectic as the beginning with loose ends to tie up before vacation officially begins. As I go through the ritual of preparing for the end of another school year, I continually think about the past year. I assure myself that this reflection is the obligation of a reflective practitioner, however, I question whether dwelling on the things that could have been done better is productive. And certainly, I recognize that the saying "we are our toughest critic" is true!   

To help streamline my thinking and finish the year with a more optimistic view, I have engaged in my own Exit Slip activity. This type of informal assessment is typically used to identify a student's understanding of material that has been taught. There are several various prompts a teacher can use such as:

•    Pretend your friend was absent from class today and s/he asks you to explain the lesson. What would you tell him/her?
•    Write down one question you have about today's lesson.
•    Write down one thing I can do to help you.
•    Write down two things you learned.
•    What concept has been most difficult/confusing this chapter?
•    What do you need to do to prepare for the upcoming test?
•    What would you like me to review tomorrow?
•    What is the most important thing we learned today?
•    How did today's quiz go? What can you do to improve next time?
•    If you were writing a quiz over today's material, what are 2 questions that you would put on it?

Utilizing exit slips with my students gives me a fair snapshot on what they have learned. Not accustomed to this type of assessment, the student responses are honest and open as they are given a short amount of time to reflect about what they have learned.  Following that same principle, I chose the following exit slip prompt to think about and respond to: "Write down two things you learned this year"

I was surprised how after reading this prompt I wrote the following statements quickly and fluidly:  
1. Strong leaders are those who empower you and are transparent about their decisions and choices.
2. An authentic leader is one who aligns people around a shared purpose and values.

After rereading my responses, I was amazed how those statements emerged without much effort or thinking and were so accurate.  The answers helped me understand the depth to which this year's drastic changes in leadership had impacted me even more than I cared to admit.  Often, when involved in a situation that pushes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us, it becomes difficult to see the benefits. Another thought that astonished me about the statements is that they were more positive than negative and certainly pose a challenge as I redefine my role as teacher and leader in my classroom.   
 
A few weeks ago, I opened my camper for the summer season. The camper is tucked away in   within a quiet campground tucked away in the north woods. For the past three years, I have found this to be my sanctuary where I spend time relaxing and catching up on the activities that have been put aside during the school year.  The shifting from teaching to vacation seems to take and adjustment period. Like many of you, around August when it is time to return to school, it seems I have mastered the art of relaxation.

This year, I encourage you to find a place of your own and take time to reflect on that which you have done exceedingly well this year. Perhaps modify one of the exit slip prompts for yourself to simplify reflections about the year.  Most importantly, I hope that you will find space and time to rejuvenate, relax, and enjoy a break.    

Let us all celebrate our dedication to the teaching profession. Children's worlds are brighter because of our efforts and commitments to teaching.

Happy Summer!

References:

George, B. (2010). True north: Discover your authentic leadership (Vol. 143). John Wiley & Sons.

"Let It Slip!" Daily Exit Slips Help Teachers Know What Students Really Learned,
retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev/profdev091.shtml

[MenTeach: Dr. Jill has been working to increase and retain men in her education program. We asked her to write about her experiences as a woman facilitator. You can find the other articles here.]