As the end of the year takes shape, I wanted to take a moment to remind us all that it’s important to end your year on a high note. The most patient teachers have shortened fuses, and even the most well-behaved students are prone to erratic behavior as summer approaches. For some, it’s a recipe for disaster. Don’t let this deter you from ending your school year happily! Here are 5 tips to end your year on a high note.
Maintain High Standards
Sometimes students need reminders. Instead of thinking to yourself: the rules have been the same all year, they should know better! give students a pass. This isn’t to say they can run wild and get away with crazy behavior, but there’s something about impending summer and warmer weather that causes students of all ages to temporarily “forget” the rules. And it’s not entirely their fault; adults are guilty of this too–ask any administrator and they’ll agree. So, help your students out. Go over the rules again. When someone inevitably breaks one, remind them of your high standards. The rules still apply, right up until students get home after that last day of school. Reminding them of this upfront will save a lot of tears.
High standards also means you can’t push play on movies and put your feet up on the desk the last few days. School is over when the final day has passed. Turning the classroom into a babysitting service is not good for anyone. Have meaningful activities planned for students until school is over. I’m not saying you should give students a test on the last day, but there’s always a lesson to be taught. Which leads me to my next point…
Keep Students Busy
Idle hands are the devil’s work, amiright? We all know that busy students cause less issues. Use this to your advantage. Assign students meaningful end-of-year assignments. As a former 8th grade English teacher, I always had students participate in a multi-step writing process assignment. They reflected on their year, wrote letters of gratitude to their middle school teachers, and constructed a written plan for high school. I thoroughly enjoyed dropping off the letters to teachers after students departed on the last day, and I know the recipients always enjoyed starting their summer by reading them. Here are a few other meaningful activities:
- There’s a large demand in the pay-for-lesson world for the escape room activities. I hear they’re fun and worth the money.
- You can always have students write letters to the upcoming grade, telling them what to expect and giving them pointers for success.
- This time of year is also conducive to reading and acting out plays. If you’ve waited all year, and couldn’t find a way to fit Reader’s Theater or plays into your teaching, now’s the time. Plays are interactive and enjoyable.
- You can also just read a book for enjoyment’s sake. Have students do a fun after-reading activity when they’ve completed the text.
- Lastly, it’s always fun to give students a challenge: preview next year’s material in form of formative assessment. Show them what types of topics they’ll be working with next year. This will prep them and ignite their interest for the upcoming school year.
There are plenty of ways to engage your students on those last days!
The end of the year can be a time for excitement. But it doesn’t have to be a free for all! Incorporate active and engaging activities that will hold your students’ attention. Celebrate their victories. Show them you’ll miss them when they’re gone. That favorite activity that they’ve begged for all year, whether a game or use of technology, now is the time to weave it into your instruction. Use your students’ interests to your advantage! You’ve spent all year worrying about behavior, test results, and observations–now’s the time to let your hair down a bit. And you don’t have to worry about reigning students in afterward–they’ll be gone! Enjoy yourselves a bit.
Get Some Perspective
While many students are more than ready for summer vacation, remember not all students look forward to this time of year. Some of them have little routine or stimulation once school lets out, and others have to wonder when they’ll receive attention or a meal. Be mindful of these students. Remember, not everyone has amazing summer plans to vacation at the beach or do cool stuff with their family.
Also, you may be raring to get out of the classroom and onto break yourself, but remember you’ll miss these kids when they’re gone…it might take a while, but you will! When they manage to push every last button you have, remind yourself: they’re just students and they’re likely just as excited as you are. Cut them a little slack.
And last but not least, remember you survived another year. Teaching is HARD WORK. And it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a reason why you chose a profession where you’d teach and mold impressionable minds. Be proud of the work you’ve done this school year. And get ready to do it all over again in a few months’ time.
Look At Your Shoes AKA Have Patience
I taught middle school for quite some time, and if there’s a group that’s unpredictable come end of year, it’s them. Hormones, increasing confidence, and growing up are all factors that cause this to be an unstable time for those middle graders. I had a wise principal during that time who gave a great piece of advice every May: look at your shoes. This particular principal had a personal love of shoes, but it wasn’t just that. She knew her teachers would be in situations where they would need to take a breath and calm down, and her metaphor and advice to do this was to pause and check out your shoes. This advice has stuck with me for years because it’s perfect. Taking deep breaths is cool and mildly helpful, but you can do that while still looking at the student. Looking at your shoes takes your eyes and mind away from the situation long enough to allow you to regroup. Try it. Maybe you’ll remember it every May/June for years to come like I have!
Teachers, enjoy your summer! You’ve earned it. Never let anyone tell you otherwise! There’s a reason why we work 10 months out of the year…we manage to cram 12 months of learning into that short span. It’s nothing short of a miracle. Take care of yourself, and don’t forget to reflect on your year while it’s still fresh in your mind. See my tips here on how to do that. Happy summer!