Prior to hurting my knee about three years ago and picking up cycling, I was an avid runner. In my ‘glory days’ of running, I ran 15 half marathons and many small road races. One of the things I always prided myself on as a runner was finishing strong. If I had a half marathon I was training for, I would run 14 or 15 miles in my last training run to prove I could finish the distance. I would always save a little extra in the tank to be striding past many people at the end of the race. If anything, it left me feeling like I had always given my best effort and really left the race putting everything out there with no regrets.
Here in Massachusetts we are on the last of our week long vacations, April vacation. We have winter break and February break. Upon return from this break there really is not very much time remaining in the school year. Colleagues feel it, caregivers/families feel it and the kids most definitely feel it. If you have been teaching for awhile, you know that May is easily the busiest month of the entire school year. Many people think September is busy, but given the end of year projects, concerts, art shows, the start of spring sports, final meetings, closure to school activities, etc. May is the ‘winner’ of the busiest month award for everyone in the education world as far as I’m concerned. So, how do we mange this? How do we push through to the end of the year as to not limp across the finish line, but to run all the way through it?
Here are 5 simple things you can do to make the end of the year the best it possibly can be for kids and yourself…
- RE-ORGANIZE NOW: I take some time during break to re-organize my classroom, throw out some things I don’t need, clean my car (yes, this makes a difference) and really have my physical house in order. I have always found that when my physical house is in order, my mental house is in order also.
- SET UP THE CALENDAR AND PREVIEW IT: Whether it’s google calendar or a physical paper calendar, get everything in writing in front of you from now until the end of the year. I like to review it on Sunday nights going into the week and communicate with all important people in my life what the week looks like. Having everything written down makes a big difference so you don’t miss anything and/or are double booked. Both have happened to me 🙂
- GET REAL WITH YOUR STUDENTS: Acknowledge with your students that “yeah, this might be a tough time of the year and we still have X amount of days left, but I need you to meet me half way and put your best foot forward. I’m doing to give you my best for the next month and half and hope that you will do the same.” I also acknowledge when the last day of school is and attempt to ‘make it real’ for them… For example I’ll say this next Monday… “Look, the last day of school is not until Monday June 25th (stop laughing). It’s April 23rd right now. It will not be June 25th until June 25th and there nothing we can do about it. Let’s do our best to make the most of our time together and finish strong.” I completely believe this makes a difference with kids because you are talking about something that everyone is thinking and they can relate to it.
- GET OUTSIDE BY STAYING INSIDE ON RAINY/CLOUDY DAYS: Personally, get outside. It is so good for your spirit. Leave school at a reasonable hour. May is one of most beautiful months of the year. You might be thinking “I have to plan and correct” I agree, but do your best to check the weather for the week ahead on a weather site like this and choose the day that looks the ‘worst’ in your opinion. Take that day to plan, correct and prep. The other days, get yourself outside and take a walk and spend some time in the beauty of the sunshine. Sound cheesy? Try it and let me know how it goes.
- KEEP A COUNTDOWN IN A VISIBLE PLACE IN YOUR CLASSROOM: I’m sure some folks will give some pushback on this one, but this is another ‘keeping it real’ idea. In my classroom I have a countdown of the following “Wake ups” until the year is done… 23 Wake ups for the Seniors (I teach lots of seniors) and 45 Wake ups for the R.O.U. (rest of us). Some people may think this is not ‘educationally sound’ and “Why am I hoping the year is going to end?” I’m not doing that at all. I’m simply putting in writing what all the kids are talking about, thinking and processing. It goes back to the theme of having a light at the end of the tunnel for kids. It’s not June 25 yet, but we are getting close, so hang in there!
BONUS: If you didn’t get a chance to read this previous blog post it will give you some great ideas to help to add joy to the end of the year.
Lots of people talk about making a great first impression, but remember, your last impression is just as important! Finish strong!