– T.S. Elliot, The Hollow Men
This verse from T.S. Elliot’s The Hollow Men are among the best known in modern poetry, a poem that itself has been subjected to countless scholarly critiques. While some may posit that the conclusion of WWI or the breakup of of Elliot’s marriage gave rise to these lines, my own scholarly analysis concludes that Elliot was reflecting upon the last few weeks of school before summer recess.
Whether your connection with American schools comes as a student, a parent, teacher, or administrator you know that the atmosphere at the end of the school year is very different from that at its start. The excitement of opening days inexorably leads to exhaustion, ennui, and “senioritis.”1
Why is it, do you suppose, that we educators are unable to sustain the student excitement of September through to June? And how is it that parents are so eager for school to start in the fall, and so often dread the end of the year when their offspring will be at home with them? Is this why so many American adults resent teachers and their three months of “vacation?” (I know, I know. It’s not really vacation but a well-deserved time for professional development, reflection, and rejuvenation. But can you at least please not book a flight for the morning after school is over? It makes all of use look bad.)
Most kidding aside, there is something in the difference between fall and spring in schools that is worth examination, and if we look closely we might find the seeds that will make the entire year more engaging. Perhaps we might even elicit a few pangs of regret amongst learners that who will look back longingly at the school door last bell rings instead of chanting “school’s out, school’s out, teacher’s let the fools out” as kids of my generation did. And perhaps the year will end with a bang instead of a whimper.
- a contagious affliction most notable in 12th grade students but now found to have infected students and adults of all ages. ↩