FINALS – a time for celebration and reflection

I’m sitting on my back deck on a sunny Saturday, spending hours going through student finals. What else would a teacher be doing on a Saturday in June?

For finals in my music classes, students submit videos of themselves performing a solo that demonstrates various skills that they mastered throughout the term. They are not meant to be overly difficult, but rather a culminating project that captures growth. Some students impress me with their performances, some are still a work in progress and – sadly – some students didn’t submit anything at all. But for most, it’s an excellent showcase of their growth over the year.

One of the things I love about being a music teacher is that I get to keep the same kids year over year – many for 4 years in a row. I have evidence of their growth and can go back and compare their current work to their first submissions from their freshman year. It’s overwhelming to back out from the moment and look at the big picture of student growth, and it reminds me that finals should really be a time for celebration and reflection.

I had to pull one of my classes aside on Friday for a li’l “re-calibration.” They had spent a week or two preparing for their solo project and for re-auditions to remain in the class. The student anxiety about scores, exact tempos, tiny mistakes and the rest was out of proportion. I reminded students that the REAL value in all of this was not the results of their solo, their grade, or placement in the auditions. What they’ll remember in 20 years is not the score they got, or even the piece they played… it will be the people that they were in the class with and the journey of growth that everyone took together.

I reminded my students that finals and auditions should be a celebration of all the growth that they accomplished through their hard work this year. They should submit their solos and play their auditions with joy – reflecting on their achievements.

Sure, there’s always things to improve, and room for further growth. But, looking at my students achievements, I am reminded that tests, finals, grades… all of that stuff is just a “snapshot.” A moment in time. A data-point. What is really valuable is the growth my students have earned through their hard work and persistence. And THAT is a cause for celebration.

(now – I’ll quit stalling and get back to grading)

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