It's always a wonder to me how quickly the school year comes to a close. Once Spring Break is over, it feels like a down-hill roller coaster of testing and culminating projects, mixed with an energy level that is at it's absolute peak. The countdown to summer is on... WOOHOO! In the last couple month's of the school year, there's so much to do. Some staff will be wrapping up their career and heading off into the sunset of retirement. Some will be packing up their classrooms to shift into a new role (wether that be out of the classroom, a new grade level, or new school site). Others will be packing things up (or if you're like me, shoving things haphazardly in closets), ready to pull them right back out as summer comes to a close. Regardless, this season is a special (yet extremely busy) time. Below are four simple tips to finish the year strong.
1. Enjoy your students.
Although this is something I try to focus on all year round, the last few weeks of the school year are always a special time. I try to take a moment each day, usually when my students are busy working on something, to take pause and breathe it all in. I try to enjoy the "feeling" of this specific group. I try to laugh with them more and point out how much they have grown, providing specific encouragement to each student. Taking a second each day to feel grateful for the group of students I've been lucky enough to teach typically keeps me more grounded in those last weeks, which is better than wishing away the days in a countdown to summer.
Make some time for having fun together. Personally, I am a big fan of kickball games and academically-focused fun, like this awesome Water Slide Project, Google Slides Year in Review Memory Project, or Alphabet Year in Review Collaborative Project!
2. Take some time to reflect.
While the school year is fresh in your mind, take some time to make a list of what went well this year and what you'd like to improve. Do you want to revamp your classroom jobs? Is there curriculum or content that could align better to form a cohesive unit? Is there something that has always bothered you (for me, it's my current pencil sharpener location)? Do you wish you had different furniture options?
This is the time to record those ideas. When I don't write it down, I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, forget what I wanted to do when I head back into my classroom at the end of summer.
3. SPRING CLEANING!
It is a well-known fact that teachers tend to be hoarders. Please tell me why I am STILL holding onto a beat up bag of buttons that a retired teacher handed down to me years ago??? Have I ever used it? Nope. How about the teaching posters I bought 15 years ago still sitting in my cabinets? Are those going up on my already-filled walls? Nope. There is so much clutter that we hold onto, juuuust in case we'll need it someday. I hate to say it, but if you haven't touched it in the past year, you probably won't next year. It's time to say good bye!
My goal for the end of this year is to schedule 15 minutes each week to de-clutter, donate, and ditch items I don't need any more. I am easily overwhelmed at the idea of cleaning everything at the end of the year so if I don't do a little bit each week, I know I'll just end up closing those cabinet doors and deeming the mess "future-Erin's" problem.
Also, how are we feeling about those paper files? Are your files mostly digital these days? If so, it is probably time to recycle the paper filling your filing cabinets. Personally, I like to keep a master copy of seasonal projects, but that's about it.
4. Prepare for your next adventure.
Many of us will be packing up our classroom and returning to the same role next year. If so, take some time to copy a few back to school items that are fun "getting to know you" activities. I find that plenty changes over the summer (hello, grade level change) so if you are preparing welcome letters or supplies lists, hold off on the hard copies... but editing a digital copy is highly encouraged! The more you can prepare, the less stressed you'll be at the start of the year.
If you are moving onto a new role, this time will probably be filled with lots of big emotions. Take it slow. Gradually parse down the items you want to take with you. Offer the things you don't hope to take to the newer teachers on campus (donate or sell the rest). But most importantly, see number 1 above... enjoy your students that are in your room while still looking forward to what your future holds.
Wishing you all the best,