Do you feel it? That rush of excitement and worry all rolled up into one as another school year comes to a close. The feeling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and yet there is so much to get done before that light appears. I want it to go by quickly and slow down, all at once.
For some of us, that feeling can cause anxiety and a wee bit of crankiness. I can hear it in teacher’s voices as I walk through the halls. We have the end of year assessments, report cards, and to do lists at the back of our mind. In front of us, the curious eyes of our community of learners. Every moment is a balance of keeping the momentum of the year and wrapping it up.
The end of the school year is stressful for teachers, to be sure. The upcoming summer was a joyful time to relax and play with our friends for some of us when we were children. But for some students, the end of the school year does not invite feelings of relaxation and joy. For many students, school is the stable, safe place where they are guaranteed meals and engaging activities. Our most vulnerable students, despite whatever progress we might make in the school year, often show a change in behavior at the end of the year. When we are hoping to plan for celebrations and happy goodbyes, they might start acting out, seemingly sabotaging the end of their school year.
This is something I have experienced many years as a teacher and it something I struggle with every year. As I feel the pressure to stay on schedule and get every second of academics squeezed in, I also feel the pull to let go a little and find ways to guide vulnerable students at the end of the year. How do I add this support to all the other balls I am juggling at the end of the year? How could I possibly ignore it?
There are a few tricks I have tried that can help at the end of the year. One is to reinforce the expectations. Remember the beginning of the year when you slowly taught the expectations and came up with engaging ways to teach them? Go back to that beginning. Treat the end of the year just as tenderly as you would the beginning.
Another tradition I have started is a Lunch Bunch group. Every day I invite students to have lunch with me. This special time gives us a break from following rules and completing academics. It is also a time to create some special memories that kids can hold on to when they think about the approaching end of the school year.
I asked a veteran teacher at my school if she has any tried and true tricks for the end of the year. She said, “Just don’t forget to breathe.” When things start feeling a little out of control, she takes a moment to take a breath, reflect on the situation, and allow a little time to think through things. This helps her keep calm, which models for students as well. “And don’t forget to laugh along with them,” she added.
What about you? Do you find that your kids are having a harder time following expectations? What kinds of tricks do you have? Good luck with the rest of your year! And if you are lucky enough to have finished already, send positive thoughts to all of us still teaching!