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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.