Closing Out vs. Fading Out: 5 Steps for Ending the Year Strong
If you've been supporting and/or evaluating teachers all year long, don't let that work just fade out as summer approaches. Make sure that you and your teachers get the most out of the year by having a formal close-out conversation. If you're a teacher and not an instructional leader, you can initiate this important conversation, too. Following are five steps that can help guide you through this critical exchange of information.
Focus on Teacher Strengths
No matter how strong or struggling the teacher, the most impactful way to set the tone for thinking successfully about next year is to make sure you acknowledge his or her specific strengths so that he or she can build on them. And knowing how stressful teaching is, especially for newer teachers, focusing on positives at the end of the year will help make them feel strong and confident about next year instead of wondering, "Can I do this for another year?"
Identify Focus Areas for Next Year
The summer offers a great time for professional development and personal reflection, but this will only happen if teachers feel motivated and excited to do it. Even if you know where you want teachers to focus in order to improve, now is the time to give them complete ownership over their development so that it's meaningful for them and they're inspired to do it.
Create a Summer/Fall Action Plan
Since teachers are ready to plunge into their hard-earned summer vacation, what this action plan looks like will depend on the teacher, so he or she should be the one leading the ideas for these next steps based on whatever meaningful focus areas you've identified together. Some teachers might have lots of ideas for the conferences, planning, and prep they want to do over the summer. For others, their summer commitment might be minimal, and the conversation will be more about what they’ll do when they return in the fall. Either way, you're giving them a concrete plan to focus on as they think about next school year.
Clear the Path
This phrase comes from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Clearing the path is about removing as many barriers as possible so that an action or change is most likely to happen. In these final conversations with teachers, clearing the path is about thinking through the details of the teachers' next steps and removing barriers so that they can visualize these steps happening and articulate how they'll happen. For example, if a teacher is interested in writing three unit plans over the summer, talk through his or her summer plans to help identify exactly which weeks would be available for writing them, and what resources he or she would need in order to do it. Depending on the teacher's level of enthusiasm, you may even be able to calendar out when everything will happen. Without this clear path to success, it's too easy for the summer weeks to fly by until, all of a sudden, it's the first day back at school, and the teacher hasn't accomplished any of the summer plans that he or she intended to.
Get Some Feedback
Find out from the teachers you support what they appreciated about your support, what they wanted more of, and what they'd want to change. This conversation could happen in person, but it could also be through an anonymous survey if you feel like you'd get more honest feedback that way. This is mutually beneficial because it helps them identify what they need from a coach or evaluator, and it helps you get insight into how to better support your teachers next year.
No matter what stresses and trials you and your teachers may have faced this year, closing the year strong with positive, actionable takeaways will ensure that teachers walk away feeling empowered, inspired, and ready to come back even stronger next year!