By this time of year

Middle School
Students enter each grade a little apprehensively, straining to impress. By this time of year, they fully inhabit themselves at their grade level. Shyness has fallen away; they know the routines, they know their teachers, and they are doing what all children do in springtime: outgrowing their old selves, stretching and transforming.  In the middle school, this means that the classrooms and halls are a louder. The days are longer and warmer, and students' social lives burst into bloom.
Classroom activities are geared more and more often toward wrapping up, reflecting and culminating. A series of lasts are on the horizon: the last book, the last test, the last dance. In this home stretch, students are often at their most confident and expressive selves. There is a liveliness and abandon - both in and out of class - that comes from knowing that the string of lasts will soon end in summer. It's a special moment for teachers, when the class is intellectually and developmentally nearly a year older than when they first arrived. They are at their most sophisticated we will ever know them in that grade. And we know them better than we ever have. Classes feel more familial than at any other time of year. 
At the same time, teachers are beginning to see their class as the rising class of the coming grade. Sixth graders begin to be thought of as rising seventh, and so on. We have begun to have conversations about next years' classes - conversations we will return to many times in the coming weeks. In thinking about next years' classes and groupings, we consider so much: the shifting sands of students' friendships, identities, and their academic needs. We wonder: Who this one confide in? Who will partner with him? Who will challenge her? We consider how to help students feel known. We ask ourselves, What would it be like to be this child? Who will they see when they look around the room? 
Despite all of this thinking about the summer and fall, the truth is that there is so much still to look forward to this spring, beginning with the middle school musical next weekend. Following the musical, there will be the spring concert, the dance, and each class' end of year event and potluck.  I look forward to seeing you all in the building.