Reflect So You Can Relax

Before you lock your classroom door, turn in the keys, and turn off your teacher brain, I recommend you reflect on anything that didn’t go well this year.

Whoohooo! It’s finally the end of the school year! Time for some R’s – Rest, Relaxation, and Rejuvenation!

If you had a tough year this year (as many of us did) you may be especially eager to leave it all behind and get on with your Summer Break. But before you lock your classroom door, turn in the keys, and turn off your teacher brain, I’d like you to take a moment for one other R – Reflect.

Specifically, I recommend you reflect on anything that didn’t go well this year (anything Rotten, to continue our R-word theme.)

Why Reflect on the Negatives?

Now why would I ask you to wallow in your misery instead of playing and having fun? Why be so negative? Why not reflect on the positive things that happened instead?

Because you want next year to be better, that’s why! And if you’re anything like me, you tend to get a little fuzzy about the specific details of what went wrong. You just remember that you didn’t like it, and rejoice (another R word) that you don’t have to face it for a few weeks. Then all that summer relaxation tends to erase it from your memory, and you forget to make a plan to fix it.

But things aren’t going to get better next year by accident. The definition of insanity is taking the same action and expecting different results.

Don’t Try to Fix It Now

I know you don’t have the energy right now to figure out how to fix everything, and I’m not asking you to do that. I’m just asking you to make a list of things you’d like to improve for next year. Then, once you’ve rested a little and you’re ready to think about next year, you’ll know what you need to work on.

So what drove you crazy this year? The transition after lunch? Tardies? Kids throwing things? Backtalk? Eyerolling? Side conversations? The pencil sharpener? Write it all down and lock it away in a drawer somewhere until you’re ready to start thinking about next year.

Reflect Now, Fix Later

Chaos CauserOnce you’re ready, dig your list out of your drawer and create a routine for each one of those “drove you crazy” items. I recommend using a process such those I teach in Taming the Chaos [video class] or the Take-Charge Teacher [DIY workbook.] Or use the Teach-To process from the Time to Teach Classroom Management Strategies That Work seminar, or any other process that works for you.

Making your “what went wrong” list now can help you let it go so you truly can Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate. Have a great break, and I’ll see you next year!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

 

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End of Year Hint

This Sanity Boost was originally published May 31, 2015.

It was the last day of school, and we were having a class party to celebrate. A parent was leading some party games that took forever. I knew it was getting late, but I didn’t know just HOW late until I looked up at the clock. We had only 30 minutes to clean up after the party and completely clean out all the students’ desks and cubbies.

A wild scramble ensued, with me barking out orders and the kids running around like little sugar-fueled tornadoes. The last minute of school arrived, and then the last second. When the bell rang, my students rushed headlong out the door with all sorts of paper and debris trailing behind them. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye, and the room was trashed.

Hours later when my teacher friends were busy toasting the end of the year at a party, I was desperately working to finish my end-of-the-year checklist.

It was horrible.

I am not a complete idiot, so why had I left everything to the last minute? Because a month before school ended, my principal directed us to make sure instruction continued right up to the last day of school. No shutting down early, she said.  I interpreted this to mean the room had to be completely set up with all materials out until the last day of school. I have since learned this is not true. The room can be prepared for the end-of-the-year shutdown AND learning can still occur. It’s a balance. You can avoid the disaster I experienced by keeping some things in mind:

  1. Your less socially able students need structure even more when a transition is nearing. You may be the most stable adult in your students’ lives. Try to keep routines in place as long as you can to avoid those students freaking out, acting out, and testing the boundaries.
  2. If possible, plan some sort of end-of-the-year project. One of my favorites is a keepsake book looking back over the major events of the school year. The students draw and write about each event in the book, and take it home on the last day. Older students can create a portfolio of their best work and write a letter of introduction to the next year’s teacher. Presentations, speeches, or demonstrations can also work well. Early project finishers can be recruited to organize books, pack boxes, and so on.
  3. Collect textbooks and materials long before the last day of school, and send things home gradually. You don’t want to scramble at the last minute like I did, nor do you want the students lugging bags of stuff home on the last day.
  4. Be strategic. Even though you collect many items ahead of time, your students still need activities to keep them engaged academically. One idea is to allow each student to choose a book from the class library to read during the last few days and then take home to keep.
  5. Make sure to leave time for some sort of a good-bye ritual on the last day of school. Students and teachers all need closure. Parties are good, and so are book or tee-shirt signings. Just make sure to set firm boundaries and allow plenty of time for cleanup.

Do you have any other tried and true methods to end the year? If so, I would love to hear from you! Email me your ideas, or post them on the Positive Teaching Strategies Facebook page.

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Spring Fever – 7 Ways to Deal With It

The top definition of Spring Fever in Urban Dictionary is:

spring fever

  1. wanting the present moment to become summer
  2. slacking off in school because the year is almost over
  3. wanting to be outside every day rather than inside

Teachers encounter Spring Fever on two levels – we have it and our students have it. It seems everyone is tired, distracted, and just DONE. So how do we squeeze in those 500 remaining Lucy Calkins lessons before the end of the year without sparking a rebellion?

Ineffective Spring Fever Approach #1

Some teachers pretend Spring Fever doesn’t exist. They crack down extra hard and load students up with high-stakes assignments, projects, and tests. This definitely keeps everyone busy, but it also tends to keep everyone stressed-out. And there can be other unintended consequences, which I wrote about in a previous Sanity Boost.

Ineffective Spring Fever Approach #2

Other teachers just give up on getting anything academic done and facilitate the Spring Fever slacking. These teachers plan a lot of fluff activities like extra recesses, parties, and dress-up days. Their thinking? You can’t get the students to do anything, so you might as well have some fun. There are several reasons this approach is ineffective (besides the fact that you’re slacking on the academics.)

1- Students who struggle the most with behavior also usually need the most structure. If the structure is suddenly taken away, their behavior can get out of control, and there goes your low-stress, fun activity.

2- Unless you plan to let the students do literally ANYTHING, you will still need to plan the activities and set up your behavior guidelines. This can be even more work than continuing with the routines you already have set up.

3- Believe it or not, some of your students actually like to learn and will resent wasting time when they could be learning. (I know this is a rare one, but don’t we want to honor this attitude?) Parents and administrators may also want students to continue learning.

Finding the Balance

It is possible to accommodate Spring Fever and still complete important tasks. Here are few suggestions and things to try.

1- Let your students know exactly what still needs to be accomplished academically. Put a list on the board, or give them a calendar, list, or agenda. This can be motivating to both teachers and students. It also lets the students know you aren’t just giving them meaningless busywork.

2- Do a low-key countdown, such as writing the number of days left on the board. This helps prepare students for the transition for summer, and you can also say, “We only have ___ days left to get everything done before our end-of-the year party. Let’s stay focused now so we can play later.” You can encourage them to make their last __ days memorable and fun.

3- Refrain from taking down your walls until the second-to-last day. Taking down your decorations, posters, and anchor charts too early communicates that learning is over.

4- Integrate content and skills with activities that help students reflect on their year or look forward to next year. For example, students can write a letter of introduction to their next year’s teacher or a thank-you letter to a previous teacher.

5- Consider adopting a class currency, token economy, or incentive plan that students can use to purchase prizes (such as unused supplies or books) on the last day of school. This can be a good opportunity to learn about keeping track of money, as well as a way to keep students focused.End of the Year Jobs for Students

6- If individual students finish projects early or lose focus to the point of being unable to work, you can give them a sorting or organizing job to do. Often this short break helps them get their focus back, and it helps you get ready for year-end, too. Check our Awesome Teacher Nation Resource Library under “Educator Resources” for a list of possible jobs.

7- Take your class outside from time to time when the activity will allow it. You can do it “just because” or use it as an incentive or reward.

Now it’s your turn. How do you find the balance when dealing with Spring Fever in your classroom? Feel free to comment below, post in our private Facebook group, or send me an email. I always like to hear from you!

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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