Dealing with End-of-Year Distractions

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

Congratulations! You’ve almost made it through another school year. After all of the testing is completed, it seems downhill until summer.

Knowing that, everyone uses this time for “special projects” that still take away from your class time. Yearbooks are delivered and subsequently shift the focus of the kids from learning to making sure each friend signs in the appropriate place. Everyone seems to be having special field days or celebrations (except you).

And if you have seniors in high school, 8th graders in middle school, or 5th graders in elementary school, good luck getting them to focus on anything but the milestone that is quickly approaching.

So how do you maintain a sense or normalcy in your class when everything is far from normal outside? Here are some things to keep in mind:

Remain consistent

Have you been a fun, easygoing classroom manager for the balance of the year? Good luck suddenly switching to a hard-nosed, no-nonsense disciplinarian to keep the students focused at the end of the year. 160 school days of classroom culture cannot be rewritten overnight. Your strategy is to level with the kids if there are some things that just have to get done. Perhaps you even make a bargain. “I know you guys just got your yearbooks. Just give me a solid 40 minutes of attention and you can sign for the last ten.” Make them put the books in their bags if you have to.

Don’t mail it in

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about loosening the reins a little during May and having some more fun in class than your usual standards would allow. I’m not retracting that idea, but make sure you don’t go overboard. We all know teachers that, once testing is done, make every day a game or movie day. You don’t want to be that teacher.

First, those days are always boring. I would much rather engage with the students than be a simple projectionist for a month.

Second, because everyone is a little more relaxed, now is the perfect opportunity to do some of the other things I mentioned in that post, like experiment with your skills or cover something new.

Have the kids help

We all have end-of-the-year checklists that we need to fill out that make sure we accomplish all of our duties before leaving for the summer. They usually include things like cleaning the room and organizing your file cabinets. There’s no reason why the kids can’t help with the majority of these tasks (pro tip: don’t let them help input final grades). The work gets done faster, they feel like they are accomplishing something with their last days, and you get one last opportunity to show them the beauty of cooperation and teamwork.

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