Making It Work: Last Weeks of the Year
Keeping You & Your Students Happy & Learning During the Last Weeks of the School Year
Many of us have reached the time of year where state testing is finished, the weather is improving, spring fever and end of the school year activities abound. These circumstances can lead to frustration and classroom management issues that can result in a stressful few weeks. Here are a few of my tips and tricks to make the end of the school year run smoothly.
- Plan ahead for as much as you can. I keep my calendar open and when I get and email or a flyer with an activity, schedule change, or request for music I write it in right away. This helps me to keep track of what I need to do to, keep on top of who will show up at my door and when there will be changes. If I don’t write dates and times down immediately, I know I will forget.
- Create strategies to “roll with the changes.” Have a few of your favorite activities and lessons in your back pocket ready to go when you need to change plans at the last minute. I am working in two buildings this year. I can be sure that someone will forget to tell me about something. Having some singing games, dances, songs and paper projects ready to go when I need to change my plans on the fly will reduce my stress level and keep the children busy and happy.
- Wrap up official grading about two weeks before the end of the last marking period. This has been the best way to reduce my stress levels. I do not tell the children, and if we are able to accomplish more than I planned I can certainly add extra marks in the gradebook. When field trips, assemblies and other disruptions interrupt my scheduled contact time I don’t have to worry about how I am going to squeeze things in.
- Anticipate and plan for active students. I have my K and first grade students at the end of a longer than usual school day in an un airconditioned building. I know they are going to be active when they walk in the door. I plan structured movement activities early and often. When I see that the children are getting squirmy, we switch to a movement song, game or dance and then continue on with the lesson after we get the wiggles out.
- Take time to review procedures and rules. When we come back from spring break I go over all of our expectations, procedures, drills and understandings. It not only reminds the children of how we work together, it reminds me to keep on top of our expectations (even when I am tired) before some behaviors get out of hand.
- Use all of your tools. Borrow that parachute from the PE teacher, break out your favorite singing games, play ukuleles to pop songs, get out the drums and scarves and beanbags, teach your classes all of your favorite silly songs from when you were a child. Revisit and expand on favorite lessons and activities. Use these tools as leverage to motivate the class to work through less desirable tasks.
- If you are able, take your lessons outside!
- Be compassionate to yourself. Take a few moments each morning to organize and plan your day. Find five to ten minutes to shut your door, turn off the lights and just be quiet, or go outside and walk around the building. Five to ten minutes of peace will make you more productive and motivated for the rest of the day. Eat as much healthy food as you can. In my self-care in December article, I listed ways to choose healthy meals during busy times. It is tempting to reach for sugar and carbs and they may you feel better in the moment but will result in a crash that will make you feel worse.
- Show compassion to the children. If you are feeling a little tired and unmotivated at times, your students probably are too. Take a minute to listen and respond with compassion. Don’t take complaints like “Do we have to do work today; can’t we just go outside?” personally. “I understand how you feel, I wish we could. Maybe if we finish our work today we can go out for the last ten minutes” is a compassionate response. If you can’t accommodate a request, acknowledging how they feel and being sympathetic goes a long way.
- Look for the positive. It is easy to get caught up in the complaining. When you find yourself in a conversation revolving around complaints, find something hilarious, beautiful or exciting to share from your class that day and ask others to share a positive moment too. When we focus on how frustrated we are and what is not going the way we want it to that translates into how we feel and our mindset. Looking for the positive will do the same. It does not mean that there will not be frustrating times, and everything will be perfect. Acknowledging that there are beautiful, exciting and funny moments takes away some of the weight of those frustrating times and makes us lighter and happier.
How do yourself keep yourself and your students happy and healthy during the last few weeks of school? List your strategies and ideas in the comments below so we can all “Make it Work!”