Are We There Yet? Dos and Don’ts For The End of the School Year
The End Is Near
There’s no doubt about it: summer break is a landmark in every teacher and student’s school year. It is often a time of excitement and fun, but it can also be stressful, overwhelming, and—at times—out of control. As another school year comes to a close, here are my tips for ending class on a strong note!
Don’t…Break your rituals and routines
As the last day of school gets closer and school is jam-packed with special events and activities, this can get more and more difficult. Hang on to those rituals and routines until it is absolutely impossible to maintain them any longer. If those daily routines fall by the wayside, students will start to realize that school is almost over. It will then be harder to keep students engaged in academic work, and their behavior will start to loosen up. Help your students stay engaged by sustaining your classroom routines before the celebrating begins.
In the final weeks of school, there is no doubt that curriculum will come to a close and final assessments will be completed. Keep your students engaged by having them work on a collaborative, creative project.
My eighth-grade students were starting to feel anxious about leaving their classmates and starting at new high schools, so they appreciated having this time to work together. Don’t attempt to keep your students on track with worksheets and other busy work—give them a meaningful, engaging project to keep them on track through that very last day of school.
Do…Schedule some time to celebrate
Taking time to recognize students for their achievements throughout the year is important and something they will never forget. One teacher in my school did superlative-type awards in each of her classes. She broke away from the traditional “Most Likely to Succeed” and came up with funny, personal awards for each student. The students got a kick out of their awards and appreciated her gesture to recognize them and their contributions to her class.
Don’t…Start celebrating too early
Students will also want to celebrate their academic growth, so take the time to show them how much they have learned and give them time to reflect before you send them off. Celebrating is fun, but save this for the very end—starting a few days too early can signal to students that school is already out.
Don’t…Assume that everyone is excited for summer break
Our students come from a variety of living situations, and unfortunately not all of them are pleasant. In my school, summer break is a celebratory time for some students, but it’s a time of high anxiety and stress for others. Not all students are excited about spending the summer at home. If students are transitioning to a new school, like my eighth-grade students will this year, there can be a lot of uncertainty.
By the end of the school year, you’ll likely know which students are going to miss the security that comes with being in school during the week. Be sensitive to their feelings and don’t assume that every student is going to be running out the door at the sound of that last bell.
Do…Get feedback from your students
One of the best ways to reflect on how well you taught over the last school year is to get feedback from your students. This can be done in a variety of formats. I personally prefer Google Docs.
Create a simple form and ask your students to fill it out using a computer, iPad, or anything with an Internet connection. The information they submit will be automatically saved for you to analyze and reflect upon later.
Here’s an example of a survey I used in my own classroom:
If you are new to Google Docs, stay tuned for upcoming blog posts with step-by-step instructions on how to use it as an evaluation and assessment tool.
Summer is here
Do…Reflect on your successes and failures
Don’t wait until the beginning of the next school year to start thinking about what did and didn’t work in your classroom. Reflection is a vital part of any successful teacher’s practice.
- Take the time to read your students’ evaluations, and make note of what you would like to improve for the next school year.
- Make changes to your teaching approach now, and you will be all set to start fresh in the fall.
- Using your students’ suggestions and your own reflective ideas, make a “summer to-do list” of things to improve on for the next school year.
Don’t…Put away your teaching hat for the summer
Summer is an amazing opportunity for teachers to recharge and find new inspiration. Take advantage of the many teaching conferences and professional development opportunities that take place during the summer months. I attended a conference held by Solution Tree last year and learned a lot!
Purchase a couple of best practice books and dig deeper into something you’d like to improve on for next year, like differentiation or meeting the needs of English Language Learners.
Summer reading list
Here are some of the books that I’ve read.
50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners by Adrenne Herrell & Michael Jordan
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol
Best Practice, Today’s Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools by Steven Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, & Arthur Hyde
Download the complete reading list of books that have helped me:
Take time to show your students how much you appreciate them, and end the school year on a positive and enthusiastic note. And don’t forget to take time to relax and recharge!