Teacher Leadership Subscribe to RSS

How to Stay Charged During the Final Weeks of School

| Elena Aguilar

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?

see more see less

Comments (197)

Comment RSS
Kelly (not verified)

I found this to be really

Was this helpful?
0

I found this to be really helpful. I am currently not teaching in a classroom, but have one year of teaching experience. I remember the end of the year and wondering what I could do to keep them engaged because the students could obviously tell school was ending soon and summer break was coming. Even though I am not currently teaching, I am always collecting ideas for when I do get back into a classroom. There are a lot of good ideas that I have written down and saved and hope to try in the near future!!

Ashley (not verified)

Last Days of School

Was this helpful?
0

I loved this posted! Although the last days of school have come and gone for this year, there is always next year. I was a first year teacher this year, and was a little unsure of what to expect as the year’s end approached. Most of the reactions that were listed in this post were reactions that I observed of my students at the end of the year. I really liked the idea of a reflection activity to help the students remember what they have learned through the year. I will definitely remember this post and use it at the end of next year. Thank you!

Ashley (not verified)

Last Days of School

Was this helpful?
0

I loved this posting. Althought the last days of school have come and gone for this year, there is always next year. I was a first year teacher this year, and I was a little unshare of what to expect as the year's end was approaching. Most of the reactions that were listed in this posting were reactions that I observed in my students. I especially like the idea of a reflection activity to help the students remember what they learned throughout the year. I will definitely keep this posting in mind when next year starts to come to an end. Thank you!

Lori Hudson (not verified)

English 9

Was this helpful?
0

I agree that summer is a tough time for many students. I was fortunate enough growing up that I knew summer meant travel and lots of water activities. A lot of my students find a pond to swim in. I agree with you that many kids do not have enough to eat, when they find themselves in the middle of summer. I want to point out to you that our community park system is offering free breakfasts and lunches to any kids that show up all summer long. It might be something you want to look into.

Lori Hudson (not verified)

I agree with the article. Our

Was this helpful?
0

I agree with the article. Our last day with kids is this Friday. Today and tomorrow the kids are working on a project - yes, with glue, scissors, markers, magazines, etc. As we recently finished To Kill a Mockingbird, I gave them a final project choice: create a scrapbook page for Scout that reflects five life lessons she learned while growing up, or create a game board with rules, etc. The game board has been the most popular project. They have to reflect the setting, characters, symbols, and incidents from the plot on their game. They had to create 25 question cards (with answers on the back). It's been a great way to end the year and have the students reflect what they learned from the novel. Thanks for reinforcing that the students need to get out the art supplies!
Lori Hudson

Lauria (not verified)

Hi I teach middle school

Was this helpful?
0

Hi

I teach middle school music and drama too!

I do very much of the same activites you already described - but did a fun one today! It worked VERY well! Got it on line - but changed it to fit my subjects.

Of course, modify for your use - I used - song titles, singers, groups, and musicals for choir - and T.V., movies, plays, actors and actresses for drama. Got list ideas on line as well.
but here it is:

PASSWORD
Anybody older than 20 probably remembers the TV game show Password. The game can be easily adapted for classroom use. Choose two students to be the "contestants." You can always use the "I'm thinking of a number ..." guessing game to determine the contestants. Those two students go to the front of the room and face their classmates. Reveal a secret word -- write it on the chalkboard or a chart or hold up a card -- to everyone but the two contestants. The rest of the students raise their hands to volunteer one-word clues that might help the contestants guess the word. Contestants take turns calling on clue volunteers until one of the contestants correctly guesses the secret password. The contestant who guesses the password remains at the front of the class; the student who gave the final clue replaces the other contestant.

Tip: Choose words appropriate for your students' abilities. Words for which they might know multiple synonyms or meanings are best! You might use a thesaurus to create a list of possible words before playing the game. Write those words in large letters on cards so students can use them as the game is played. Save the cards from year to year.
Sample password: ferocious
Possible clues: fierce, vicious, wild, fiendish, savage, cruel, brutal

More possible passwords: understand, taste, slam, easy, recess, ancient, nasty, laugh, drink, impatient, hot, pound, glimpse, friend, correct, motion, ruin

Let me know what you think!
Lauria

Denine Vickers (not verified)

I am a second grade teacher

Was this helpful?
0

I am a second grade teacher and I have also found that having my students reflect on their learning is powerful. I am currently having my students create second grade memory books where they are reflecting on goals they have reached this year, important lessons they have learned from friends, Experiences from second grade that they will not forget, etc. Through reading their memory books I am also learning what has really stuck with the students and what I might consider changing next year. Like you, the students are working on this activity as they finish their work and/or review sessions in class.

Denine Vickers
Walden University
Cleveland, Ohio

Leslie Keefer (not verified)

I agree totally

Was this helpful?
0

This is a perfect blog to read since we are finishing up our last couple weeks or days of school. At the end of the year I think everyone starts to feel the same way. The students and teachers are just tired, however we are their strength and need to keep them going. Towards the end of the year is very difficult because grades are all in and sometimes I think the students receive to much hanging around time and their days all of a sudden lack structure. I saw a difference in my students just because we were finished out stories and spelling lessons. That changed and it seemed to change all of them drastically. Kids and adults like structure and to know what will happen next. I trie to keep my kids active and thinking about what great accomplishments they have made. We draw, write and make crafts that reflect something we learned throughout the year. We also hold an award ceremony which is wonderful to see how proud they are of their own progress.

Jennifer (not verified)

Great Ideas!

Was this helpful?
0

After reading the article I found that surviving the last days of school will be much easier nect year. I teach juniors and senior so the reoutine of the final days of school are enbeded deeply in my students. Next year I am going to try some of the mentioned activities in the article and in some of the bloggs in order to survive. I am thankful for this blogging experience and hopefully i will have a success story to share for the end of the next school year.
Thanks for the advice!

Karim (not verified)

Cuet idea!!

Was this helpful?
0

Cuet idea!!

see more see less

Elena Aguilar Transformational Leadership Coach from Oakland, California