It's almost here!
As the days grow longer, the students in your classroom get more volatile, and the smell of Summer break is in the air, I want you to STOP. Right now, as you decide not to finish that lesson plan and just play Kahoot with your students tomorrow, I want you to consider the opportunity being wasted. The opportunity to end your school year stronger than ever and set yourself up for an amazing Summer. Here are 3 things you can start doing today to make that happen.
1. Plan Ahead / Make a List
The easiest thing you can do to make the end of your year better is to plan ahead for the end of year hustle and bustle ahead of time. You are probably making a mental list of all the things you need to do, whether it's cleaning up your classroom, putting in your final grades, filling out that paperwork that's been in your mailbox for a few days, or signing up for your Summer professional development training. Don't be that teacher running around on the last day of school trying to figure all of this out at once. Make a list of everything you need to get done, prioritize it, and knock out at least 1 task every day. Start with anything that can take less than 10 minutes.
There may even be a few things that you're thinking, "I'll do that over summer, or get to it at the end of the year." This is a dangerous game and I would bet just about anything that when the time comes and you are staring down that mess of lesson materials in the back of your classroom, or getting those books organized, or handing back the student work that's been on your wall since first quarter (yeah, it's ok we all do that sometimes), you won’t have the time or energy to do all the things you put on that "Summer" list. Make sure you get ahead of these things so you can divide up the workload over the last few weeks instead of the last few hours.
2. Don't Stop Teaching
Ok...so I know this sounds simple. It's so easy at the end of the year to start "filling up time" instead of focusing on student learning. In your head it's very easy to think: "just get through these last few days." I get it, and this is normal, but here's a secret: students know when you're phoning in your lesson. If students feel like your just getting through the day, or have given up on learning for the year, they will give up too.
I know it can be difficult, but stay focused, stay committed, and continue doing what you do best: teaching kids.
The more you maintain your systems, routines, and expectations for their behavior and learning, the longer you will be able to keep them focused. The sooner you start to loosen up and go into "end of year" mode, the sooner the students in your classroom will do the same. I know taking them out to play kickball, or some other fun activity, is probably going to happen...but try to hold off as long as possible before waiving the white flag and firing up Netflix (Or the DVD player depending on the age of the tech in your classroom) on the projector.
3. Try Something New
Whether you saw a great session at a conference, or learned something at a professional development session, or maybe you read a great article this year about problem based learning, classroom management strategies, standards based grading, or Mastery Learning, you probably have a few things you're thinking of trying next year.
Why not start now? Try something new on a smaller scale. If you want to try a PBL, run a mini project with your students. If you want to try some new tech, design a lesson that uses it for a day or two. This is a great time to experiment and work out some kinks with things that could be staples in your classroom next year. I know you're thinking that this sounds like a lot of work for this time of year, but it will be worth it if you have some new tools in your lesson planning tool-kit before the last bell rings.
Regardless of how many days you have left in the year (I know you have it written down somewhere), make every single one count. Don't give up, don't stop teaching, and start taking steps to not only end the year stronger, but make your Summer, and next year better than ever!