1. Letting the students take over. Students begin to get antsy toward the end of the year. They become bold in their actions and that often leads to misbehavior and wild classes…which leads to frustrated, frazzled teachers. To avoid this, overplan. Students need structure, in general, but not ever as much as they need it at the end of the year. Plan engaging, hands-on, lessons and activities with the fun stuff you wish you could teach, but don’t get to because of state standards, testing, etc. That being said, mistake #2 is…
2. Not embracing students’ energy. As the weather starts to warm and the end of school is in sight, the energy level rises. Acknowledging it and embracing it, as opposed to fighting it or trying to control it, will make the last few days much more enjoyable. Find ways to harness the energy with content games, such as Jeopardy-type reviews, or board races in Math. Take more brain breaks than usual and enjoy the fun!
3. Not preparing a reflection opportunity of the year’s learning.Students need to pause for reflection and to synthesize new information frequently. Give them an opportunity to reflect on all their learning from the school year, whether it be academic, social, or behavioral. Ideas to facilitate this are creating memory books or reflection journaling. For secondary students, try this reflection poster or this end-of-year station activity!
4. Forgetting to document. Each end-of-year is rough, but each one can be a little less rough than the last just by documenting. Teachers get so tired and stretched so thin that we forget to make notes about what worked and what didn’t. Save the notes in a safe place that you will find before the end of next year. Set your future self up for success!
5. Not making personal connections. Hand write your students a letter, personalize their yearbook note, give them a meaningful gift, exchange email addresses. Do something that allows the students to have a tangible memento letting them know how much they’ve meant to you. This can be more difficult with secondary teachers who teach 75+ kids, but strive to do it anyway. The gesture will mean more to most of them than a lot of our teaching and it will help them look back fondly of you!
6. Not having students help pack up your room. Teachers are exhausted. Students seem to have more energy than ever. Win-win for shutting down a classroom for the summer! Trying to do everything on your own will just wear you down even more! (Okay, I must admit. This one is a little difficult for me to do. I am a little bit particular about the way things get packed away because I know the process for unpacking. If done wrong, it can create a lot more work to begin the next school year. So, I have found the solution.) Spend a little time upfront making a plan for exactly what all needs to be done and how you want it organized. Select students who are task-masters and let them have fun! For the others, they can run errands, clean white boards, move desks/tables, stack textbooks, etc.
7. Hanging around with the “Negative Nancies.” We have established that the end of the year can be overwhelming and frustrating. Administrators seem to neglect logic, students have forgotten the rules and procedures, and your to-do list is longer than time allows. We are all experiencing the same emotions and venting can be healthy. But remember that negativity breeds negativity. Be careful that you don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of making yourself more miserable than necessary by letting others’ burdens pile on top of yours.
8. Forgetting to have fun.The last days of school provide the unique opportunity for the students to get to see a true lighter side of you. When appropriate, let loose and get silly with the kids. Join them for a pick-up game on the basketball courts, allow the girls to do your hair and/or make-up one morning, give fun opportunities for rewards. My team has an annual tradition of allowing students to throw pies in the face of a teacher of choice on the last day. The students look forward to it all year and it really does create those wonderful lasting memories that live forever. Be sure to smile…it’s the last thing they will remember of you!