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[Educator Network] Ending the School Year Strong

[Educator Network] Ending the School Year Strong

The end of the school year is always full of emotion. Many educators will find themselves asking questions like: Did I do enough? Did my students get the most they could have out of this year? Are they ready to move on? Am I?

Keeping your energy up and your students engaged is always a challenge, throw into the mix a pandemic and the stress is amped up to 11. There is some end of the year practices you can establish which might help you to finish the academic year strong.

Recognize and accept that the end of the year can be difficult

Sometimes just recognizing this is the story and not denying it, helps. Use this time to create lessons that explore topics or topics of high interest. Ask your students what it is that they want to dig deeper into. This immediately adds relevance to learning. If there is more than one topic, let groups work together to build a complete unit instructional plan around the topic and then they can teach a portion to the class or another small group. Giving over some of the authority and allowing students to have a role in teaching is motivating and will provide intrinsic drive.

Giving yourself a reflective end of year mini-project is helpful, too. Create something that will help another teachers; whether it's a blog post or a lesson plan to be shared, forcing yourself to create and share can keep your mind sharp and away from the darkness.

Steer clear of stress

Spend a few minutes reflecting on what is the most difficult part for you and come up with a plan to make it easier. Becoming aware means, you can avoid or address earlier.

Write a list

Whenever you feel you have the weight of hundreds of tasks on your mind. Sit down and write them all out. Just getting them all out of your head will relieve stress.

Another kind of list is one that tells of your successes. Give your students space to write about their own. Ask them to reflect and recall the year gone by. It’s an endeavor that will get students discussing memories, debating, and brainstorming together. As they reflect on their learning, they can build a list of their 10 favorite and most impactful events. This can be done independently, with a group or any combination. How fun would it be to have a classroom top 10 to share with next year’s class?

Prioritize

Sometimes the end of the year gets overwhelming. There are the essentials, there are the wants and there are always the things that would have been nice, but just never came to be. However, it’s important to remember there is only so many hours in the day. Prioritize. Look at the list, decide what is essential and where the heavy lifting can be shared. Be okay with what will move off the list.

Supply check

I know this sounds a little late, but a new pencil, fresh crayons, uncreased paper goes a long way to providing joy. Refresh the resources, it will make you feel better, your students feel important, and you will not have to pack up leftovers for the summer.

Celebrate

Celebrate both yours and your students’ success. You guys have worked hard.

Encourage students to enjoy the spotlight for a minute. This is a great opportunity for the student who never wins school awards. Have them give a little speech in honor of their accomplishments. This could be their chance to personally recognize everyone for a strength they have or something they’ve accomplished. This can easily translate from in the classroom to virtual.

Find a process to have students share compliments. To acknowledge a hard year and make a point to compliment a classmate. An example of that could be "I know you are (amazing, smart, a good friend ...) because you were able to (...)." This is a great activity to do with the class or FOR the class. Or switch it around a bit and have them write their own version. "I know that I am (amazing ...) because I can (...)." This reflection activity allows students to recognize not just that they were successful, but more importantly how they were successful during the past year.

Have students write a creative reflection on the year by writing a letter to the students in your next year’s class. Have them describe what to expect, the fun, the challenges, and adventures.

Share one specific memory for each student in a letter or card. This is one of those things that fills the “would be nice” part of the list but start now. If you do one or two students a day, not only will you get this done, but you might just be invigorated. There is nothing like writing nice things about people to remind you why you liked them in the first place.

Simplify

Teachers often remember the things they didn’t get to instead of the great things they accomplished. This year I grew as a teacher when [fill in the blank] happened because I [fill in the blank].

Have students help. We have discussed student choice and control before, why not ask them to support the end of the year close out adventures too. Include in the conversation their suggestions for projects or activities that will help to finish the year out strong academically. How they can help each other do just that. This has been a year where a number of things have been done to children (and everyone) far outside their control, hand over some of the decision making.

Choose joy

Kids learn by example and are quick to adopt our attitude. Choose joy. 

You have only 180 days(ish) with your students and colleagues. Make each day count. Plan end-of-year learning activities that have the same excitement as the beginning of the year activities. Until the last time you and your students/staff walk out the door (virtual or otherwise), they are yours to educate. Make everyday count.

winnie.oleary's picture
Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently a Curriculum Manager for Edmentum. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she finds something new and exciting every day.