Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Paper Chains

This week I came across a message from one colleague to another that referred to the paper chain countdown. Last year, this post came out at the end of April. This year, I share already. Enjoy the read and please, comments are always welcome.
Recently I joined in on the Alabama Ed Chat (#aledchat) hosted by Jennifer Hogan and Holly Sutherland. The conversation centered around how we as educators can finish the year strongly and maintain growth both for our students and for ourselves. That conversation inspired this post, Paper Chains.

"I can't believe the last month of school is already here!" she said as she walked down the hall with her friend to math class. "I know," she quickly fired back. "What are we going to do?"

It was in this moment that I was reminded that summer vacation may not be all that it is cracked up to be like many of us may think. Sure for some students and teachers, it is a much anticipated break. There is time with family, vacations and a break from the routine of traditional school. However, the reality is that many kids (and maybe even an educator or two) that would rather be in these halls with all the "rules, guidelines, teachers, homework, academic expectations and friends" than what the unknown other option may be. That other option, that unknown, is what many of us may not realize what awaits them.

And with that, I sent the message that the paper chain was going to take on a new meaning. The paper chain was now going to be viewed in a way that had not been considered before. This new view of the paper chain would have a sense of learning, not a sense of time passing by.

Instead of counting down the days until summer vacation by removing a link of the chain each day, we will remove a link of the chain that will be counting the days of learning remaining, of being with friends, of getting the most out of our academic journey. And with that, our outlook on the final month changed. It would change in a way that students and teachers would embrace. Our pledge:

We will commit ourselves to learn all that we can. 
We will teach like it was the first day. 
We will invest in ourselves and our students and our colleagues like we had just met. 
Our passion would be our drive. 
Our lessons will keep "selling tickets". 
Our expectations would continue to rise and our desire to connect with the learning will not reach an end. 
We will be there for our students knowing that this will be how they will remember how we taught them and how we cared for them. 
Our colleagues will feel the same.

I would end with this message and the message that I shared in the chat the other evening with this, "The last day(s) should be (and will be) as filled with as much energy and passion as the first." I challenge you to do the same. Rethink the Paper Chain.


  1. 29 more days till I miss my students. Great post again Craig! I'll be sharing this with some who share our feelings.

  2. The kids who started with me as freshmen are graduating this year. My paper chain means that I will no longer see them at school, but will learn about their next steps in their journey. My paper chain also counts down the remaining days of learning all that I can about students and teachers, celebrating our time together, and continuing to advocate for kids.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a great reminder! I think some students act up near the end of school because of the uncertainly of summer, not because they are excited. I am guilty of the countdown but for my 8th graders it is their reminder of how much time they have left to bring their grades (in any/all classes) to passing so they can graduate. This has me rethinking that though. Thanks for making me think!

  4. I can remember years ago, someone putting up a countdown in the teacher's lounge. That countdown stressed me out for millions of reasons I can't even begin to explain in this space. I'm always a little sad to know our time as a community is coming to an end. I'm thankful for the opportunities digital spaces create for continued connection across the summer. I always have students who still want to read, still want to write, still want to learn, and still want to connect with friends during these months.

    Thanks for sharing your post,

  5. Thanks for the new perspective on the paper chain! You're right - it should be a reminder that we have a lot to do and a lot to learn in our remaining days. We must continue to invest in these last days as much as we do the first days!

  6. This is a great perspective. We should be enjoying every moment with our students; not counting down until we are finished. They need our passion the last month of school as much as the first. I will continue to maintain the normalcy in the classroom.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love this reminder! I have been thinking a lot lately about how many tickets I would be selling to my recent lessons.
    I have also told my students that they are not allowed to countdown the days in front of me, because it makes me sad. I will miss them! Especially my eighth-graders, who will be moving on. ( I do remind them that they can always contact me, and I promise to reply!)

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