As the end of the school year approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in the crazy to-do lists of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. While there’s no doubt that the logistical details are important, equally important is the need to slow down, enjoy the end of the year activities, and savor the last remaining days and weeks with your students. Here are six ways to help you cross the finish line gracefully.
Be fully present.
You’ve invested a lot of time, care and effort into this unique group of individuals. As their teacher, you’ve seen them grow and change. Together you’ve celebrated their victories and guided them through their challenges. Saying goodbye (even to the rascally students who’ve driven you crazy all year!) is often the hardest part of the job.
Don’t let the year slip away without bringing some closure to these very important relationships. For soon you will miss the hugs and high fives, the way they make you smile, the sweet pictures and notes they create for you.
Slow down and listen carefully when your students have something to tell you, look them in the eye, wonder at their innocence, indulge in a little extra recess, read that extra story, plan some special end of the year activities or special outdoor activities, get messy! In short- enjoy them, celebrate them and love them!
And don’t forget, they are going to miss you too. So give extra smiles, love and words of affirmation.
Create memory books.
Spend time reminiscing with your students about their favorite parts of this school year. Take them back through the calendar and recall all the fun new things they learned. Take time to reflect on books they read, the games they played, and the projects they tackled. Remind them of special assemblies and events, field trips, and guest speakers. Discuss what they enjoyed most about specials such as art, pe, library and music, etc.
You can also have students create a memory book to record all their favorite things about their year with you. This End of the Year Memory Book is my favorite for PreK, Kindergarten, and First Grade students. There’s lots of page options and the writing spaces are little learner friendly. Also, most pages included differentiated options so you can pick what works best for your students.
Not only will reminiscing and making memory books be fun end of the year activities, they will make a cherished keepsake for your students and their parents too.
Say thank you.
We all know it truly takes a village to have a successful school year. As part of your end of the year activities, be sure to take time to thank those parents or staff members that have really gone the extra mile for you.
Remember those who have lightened your workload, been a support for you and your students, or helped in any way.
Even though most people don’t expect it, it’s lovely to be recognized and appreciated. No need to be extravagant- a simple card, a small potted plant or candle, or an inexpensive gift card will be more than plenty to show your gratitude.
Nurture your adult relationships.
Check in with your work besties and teammates. Remember, if you’re feeling the pressure, more than likely so is everyone else in the building.
Stop by for a quick morning conversation to start the day. Leave chocolate kisses on desks. Take the time to eat lunch together even though you may have a million other things to do. Or plan to meet for a quick drink or meal on a Friday after school.
Our relationships with our co-workers are integral to our daily happiness. Show your appreciation by checking in.
Pitch in and help each other out.
When it comes to end of the year cleanup, it’s a bummer to still be lugging boxes to your car when the rest of the staff is heading out for happy hour.
Pitch in and help each other out. In one of the schools I formerly worked at we had a motto: Nobody’s done until everybody’s done.
Sharing the workload sets the tone for next year and helps everyone to leave for summer on a positive note.
Reflect on the year.
This last step may have to wait until all is said and done, and you may need a week or two of doing nothing before tackling it. But it’s really important for your professional growth to take time to reflect on what went well this school year and think about ways you can improve next year.
For instance, maybe in a middle of a unit or teaching a skill this year you realized it would be much more effective to take a different approach. Or maybe you tried a new management technique and it worked great. Write it down now! At the same time, if something didn’t work well, write that down too.
Chances are if you leave it until it comes up next year, your recollection will be foggy. As the new school year approaches you can refer to your list and decide what to do again and what areas you want to tweak and improve upon.
Most importantly, don’t forget to acknowledge and congratulate yourself for all your successes. Gather up all those drawings and love notes you received and put them in a special place. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
The end of a year can be bittersweet. Most of us find ourselves excited for the freedom and relaxation of summer, but sad to say goodbye to the precious relationships we’ve invested in. Thus is the cyclical nature of our profession and part of what keeps it fresh and exciting.
But never lose sight on the difference you have made in those precious children that were entrusted to you for all these months. The work you do is important. And it matters. Every single day – even on the very last day.