How to Stay Charged During the Final Weeks of School | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Big Test is over. The long weekend is over. You're way beyond burned out and thinking mostly about summer. You can't figure out how you're going to get through the next few weeks, or how you could keep doing this year after year.

You're probably also on a bit of an emotional roller coaster, an end-of-the-year teacher phenomenon. One minute, you connect with a kid, notice her progress, and feel proud of what you know you've accomplished. And then the student who drove you crazy all year pushes a button you didn't even know you had and you say to yourself something terrible about him, something no "good teacher" should ever say. And then Juanita's mother comes to pick her up and she takes your hands and thanks you for helping her daughter learn to read.

So, you'll come back next year, and you already have ideas of what you will do differently. And, if you're a first-year teacher, you've heard that year two is "so much easier." But the classroom is a mess, your desk has disappeared under piles of papers you'll never get to, and the kids will be back at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.

Here are some tips to help you survive these final weeks:

  • Get into a project you've wanted to do all year. Gently put aside pacing guides and textbooks, and take out the art supplies, construction materials, music, food, and novels. Do something hands on, project based, and fun. They'll get into anything you're passionate about. You'll have the energy to get through the days.
  • But don't abandon all the routines and structures you've used all year. Kids of all ages need those routines to continue. If you start showing movies all day, every day, or have a whole lot of parties, kids are likely to get a little wacky.
  • Give kids time and tools to reflect on their school year. They can write, make scrapbooks, record a video piece, or create drawings. Prompt them to think about what they learned, how they learned, what was challenging, how they dealt with those challenges, what they feel proud of, how they changed, what advice they have for kids entering that grade next year, and so on. You'll need to provide a lot of scaffolding for this activity, model the process, and have them share their pieces as they develop them.
  • Give yourself time to reflect. Read all their reflections, and talk to the kids about what they've learned and how they have changed. Answer the same questions you ask kids to reflect on. It's critical that you see how you changed, where you have grown, and what you learned. You did grow -- and you learned a whole lot. The biggest mistake we make is not taking the time to recognize and acknowledge that.
  • Celebrate with your students and their parents, with your colleagues, and with your loved ones. With students, you can have a kind of awards ceremony where every kid is honored for something positive. This approach provides an opportunity for kids to recognize each other and themselves. You need to help them wrap up their year, giving them closure and a sense of accomplishment.

Accepting the Situation

For many kids, summer is not a good time. It's a time when their structures and routines fall apart, the most predicable people in their lives -- their teachers and classmates -- are absent, and the boredom can be numbing. Most of the students I've taught, between second grade and eighth grades, confess that they don't really like summer.

Sure, they like being able to wake up late and watch TV all day, but that gets old after a while. For some students, summer can be even be a time of fear, hunger, and loneliness. For middle school students, it can be an unsupervised time when their growing bodies get into trouble.

And so, in the classroom, you might see the more challenging students get even more challenging. They regress and become more needy and clingy, or obnoxious, which leads you to putting up more boundaries, often making them even more challenging.

Rally your strength. Access all your empathetic powers. Sleep extra hours. Get exercise. They really need you now, so try to enjoy the time with them and have fun; the year will end.

I'll go into more detail on these tips in an upcoming post. But in the meantime, what are your plans for the next few weeks? What might you like to try, or do differently?

Comments (192)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Juanita 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

WOW!! Thanks for the great ideas! It is SO hard to keep the kids focused in June and still wanting to work. We have had our state test, our class field trip and this Friday is our Field Day. After that the children "think" the school year is over despite the fact that there are two weeks left. I have them working on a science report/project in which they will have to present to the class next week. We have continued all routines and curriculum but have tried to make them more fun and creative. We are doing our reading outside,etc. I give the students a "teacher report card" to grade the teacher in many different areas and write comments about certain aspects of the school year/day. They love to do this. It is overwhelming to have the kids stay on task and get all of the end of the year paperwork in order. I have had a rough group this year so I am anxious for this year to be over too!

Justin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

With less than 4 school days left, it's extremely easy to become complacent and allow the students to accomplish nothing. This week I'm having the student's complete two simple projects. First, each student wrote their name down on a ticket and then the students each drew names. Next, the students were tasked with writing two-three paragraphs about why their selected person deserves an award this year (i.e. good grades, play sports, always friendly, or respectful). Then, the students and I proofread their writing, making corrections as needed. Finally, the students transferred this information to a trophy printable, which the students were then able to decorate and cut out. This trophy was then laminated and presented to each student. The project took two days and gave each student something to take home to show their families.
Starting today the students are working on another writing activity to give to the new students coming in next year. The final four days definitely go quicker when you have something to do.

Starting today the students are working on another writing activity to give to the new students coming in next year. The final four days definately go quicker when you have something to do.

Juanita J.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really like the idea of having the students write a letter to the incoming grade. The end of the year is always a busy time for the tachers and the students. It is important to keep the students on their schedule and still be able to relax a little and have them participate in fun, end of the year activities. I give the students a memory book to complete about activities in the school year. I also give them a report card to fill out as if they were grading the teacher in many areas. They love to do this. This year I am doing science reports/projects during these last few weeks in which they will represent to the parents and students one of the last few days of school. This has helped keep them focused.

Juanita J.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for shring these great ideas! It is very hard to keep the students focused at this time of year. AT this time every year I have the students create a memory book about activities that happended in the school year. They also fill out a teacher report card in which they grade me (the teacher) in many different areas. They love to do this!!! Something new I teid this year was to complete a research report/project these last few weeks in which they will present to the parents of the class and students in a culimnating unit activity. This has helped keep the students focused. It will be a nice way to bring the parents in for a little end of the year celebration!

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I take the last few days to teach a nutrition unit I developed years ago. It covers everythig from factory farming vs. family farms, to the educational version of the movie, "Super Size Me". I love the unit and kids stay interested thru the last day! You can find it at then click on the Meatrix Unit.

Juanita J.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the idea! I love it too and am going to try it!

Lynne Krewson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I co-teach in an inclusion class. We are keeping the routine in our math class up until the day before the last day of school. I think this will keep us all sane as we count down to the end of the year.

Lynne Krewson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have also done this activity and the students' responses help me reflect upon my school year.

Whitney's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is my first year teaching and I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade middle school math intervention. With the end of the year only a few weeks away, final exams and class trips fill our schedules. As a result, I see my kids more sparatically and they are becoming more and more restless. The great ideas I have read below really got me thinking, but I'm still trying to come up with some somewhat math related activities, maybe even review games that I can use to review for their finals. They are beginning to get tired of the games we have played throughout the year and I really need fresh ideas to keep them on their toes and excited about being here! Does anyone have any ideas they would like to share?!?

Whitney K.
Johnson City Middle School
Johnson City, NY

Kristin Smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great ideas! We finish the standardized test in April, and the students think that the schoolyear is over. We are doing last minute reviews, but the students have offically "checked out". I love your idea about creating a project based activity that you are passionate about. Thanks for the great ideas. Kristin

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