The last week of term looms. The six week Summer holiday is so close you can almost touch it, its welcome warmth the sun suddenly breaking through clouds. The only thing standing between you and that gentle embrace is five days of lessons. 20-odd hours of teaching. What could be simpler?
The temptation of course is to start the wind-down early. I’ve already had a few pleadings for a ‘fun’ lesson, and I know that tomorrow this trickle will break into a flood. ‘C’mon sir – it’s the last week of term!‘ My normal response, usually enough to deflect the question – ‘my lessons are always fun’ – just won’t cut it. The kids are tired. I’m tired. Why not just give in, and give the little darlings what they want?
Well, first off: what do they want? Thirty different personalities, united in nothing except the same uniform, and being in the same classroom at the same time. The idea that they would all find the same activities ‘fun’ just doesn’t bear scrutiny. One boy’s fun is another’s death by a thousand wordsearches.
And anyway, what do I know about fun? What do I know about Year 9s idea of fun? Or the rest of KS3 come to that, a group in thrall to the drowsy hum of the fidget spinner and the irrevocable thunk of the bottle, flipped. Answer: nothing. My idea of fun is reading. In silence. I’d do it all the time if I could, except the behaviour management and the marking keep getting in the way.
So, what to do? Well, my advice – especially if you’re a trainee or an NQT, and this is the first time you’ve done this – is to you is to resist for as long as you possibly can. Ignore the calls for fun, and keep your classes occupied, and working. The sooner you give in, the longer those lessons will start to feel. If there’s room for classes to veer off task, they will.
If you are struggling for inspiration – and if your context allows it – this last week does provide a great opportunity to experiment. Try something new, something which relates to your subject, but which also broadens your pupils’ horizons in some way. Take a risk. If you’ve got some lessons in mind that you’ve not yet had the opportunity to try, now seems like an ideal time to let them go.
Example: tomorrow my Year 7s will be having a bash at Richard II, and John of Gaunt’s ‘sceptred isle’ speech, the one describing his beloved England. It’s not on the Shakespeare scheme I’m currently guiding them through, but I’ve always loved it, and it seems a shame I’ve not yet had an opportunity to do anything with it. So Year 7 will be my guinea pigs, to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m interested to see what they think of it; and maybe it will suggest other approaches and activities I can feed into other, wholly different schemes of work.
So take a risk. Go back to that favourite author. Revisit that key event from history. Recreate that moment of sporting glory. You might be surprised what you get out of it. And your pupils might be surprised how much fun it is.