This past month we turned the calendar to a fresh page and entered the stormy seas of June. With the clashing weather patterns of high stakes testing looming, and the happy anticipation of summer beckoning, something else came crashing in on us. Loss. Somebody spoke it: “We only have three weeks left.” A quiet sadness settled over the room.
I walked over to the sink and took three paper towels…one for each week. I soaked them with water and began to squeeze. And squeeze. And squeeze.
“It’s a metaphor,” I prompted. “Who can work out what this means?” They began to work it out together and then worked it out with me. “Let’s squeeze out everything we can out of these three weeks. Let’s make these last three weeks ‘Good to the last drop.’”
These children rotate leadership. Each day we have two new team leaders who are responsible for taking attendance, passing out papers, running errands, and supporting the routines of Room 204. On Thursday, the second to the last day of school, we had a pizza party on the front lawn of William Fox School. I reminded my third graders that those with pork or meat restrictions should be served first –Then I turned it over to the class. Red and white checked tablecloths were spread out on the grass. They ate and when everyone had finished they lined up for seconds. They took turns serving. When they were done eating, they folded the cloths, collected the trash, chased butterflies, and played tag. I took it all in. Good to the last drop.
As sometimes happens, yesterday was the last day of school and also my birthday. Birthdays are big in our classroom. In Morning Meeting, the birthday girl or boy sits in the center of a birthday circle. We drop into silence and reflect on the child’s gifts that we see in Room 204. I point out that these are the gifts that will be thrown out into the world. After a moment, hands are raised. The birthday child calls on his or her classmates, and in turn they say what they see. Finally the child comes to me and I name the gifts that I see. In this way, each child gets celebrated. Their gifts are named in front of their community. Love and appreciation go public.
With the help of their parents, my children threw a surprise birthday party for me, and it ended with a birthday circle. Their kind and generous words reflected the collective values that have been built over time. These are habits of the mind and heart that we work on all year long. They are deceptively simple, but they are the bedrock of respect, community, and learning. If this hidden curriculum had a report card, it might look like this:
I know this… if there were such a report card, each child would receive “exceeds expectations.” This is who we are. This is what we do. This is how we made it good to the last drop.