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End the Year Strong

Jordan Catapano

Ending the Year StrongMany teachers will readily admit that, despite having to say goodbye and pack things up after the end of yet another year, they look forward to summer almost as much as the students do.  While students have the privilege of moving on to new studies the succeeding year, teachers get the privilege of improving upon the lessons they taught so that they can do even better next year.

With that in mind, there are several steps teachers can take to put themselves in a position to start strong in the next school year. Instead of merely looking at the freedom of summer, they can plan ahead for the impact they want to make on a fresh crop of students in the fall. 

Here are some of the simple, effective ways teachers can put themselves in a good position for wrapping up this year, while laying the foundation for the next one.

Reflect back on each of the units you’ve taught this year. Do you keep notes on what works and doesn’t for each unit? If you do, great job! If not, it’s never too late to start. Spend time reflecting on what you did well, what your students were able to accomplish, and what you could change to make the learning even more effective next time.

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Solicit feedback from students. Students can be both very polite and very honest when prompted. Provide them with a survey or even just a few leading questions to get their feedback about what helped them the most this year. Phrases like “It was great when….” and “It would have really helped me if…” are fantastic ways to get earnest feedback from students.

Ask parents for feedback. How much have you partnered with parents this year? It’s a great idea to ask them how their students’ learning looked from their perspective. Ask parents to be constructive and earnest about what was effective for their children and what could improve for future coursework. You’ll be surprised at what parents might suggest!

Create your “Must Read” list. There are so many fantastic educational texts out there; it would be a crime not to read some of them. Summers often provide the opportunity to catch up on our readings – why not use that time to get a fresh set of ideas for the next year of teaching? Commit to reading at least three books that will make you a better teacher, and purchase them early so you can begin them once summer hits!

Finish with collaboration. Students come and go, but you have very long term relationships with your colleagues in your department and building. Make those relationships count at the end of this year! In addition to any end-of-the-year celebrations, make time to discuss with fellow teachers what they liked or didn’t like about this year. As you talk, you’ll begin to make plans for how to maximize your experience in upcoming years!

Take a class photo. As time goes by, it becomes difficult to recognize students’ names and faces. But we sure did build some solid relationship with students this past year, didn’t we? Make your year with your class become a firm memory by taking a class picture and recording the names of the students on it.

Create end-of-the-year awards. Everyone likes being acknowledged for something, students and teachers alike. Awards are an encouraging way for everyone to end the school year. Create awards for students in your class and, if possible, create awards for your colleagues to be recognized with as well. It’s the most fun to have students and/or teachers create the categories and do the voting. This will give many individuals a public pat on the back and a solid grounding for next year’s work.

Clean up. There’s no better time to give yourself that fresh start than by taking a close look at your desk, you room, and your personal belongings (bags, folders, drawers, etc.) and giving them a thorough cleaning. That might mean that you fill garbage cans full of unnecessary materials, buy a few organizers, or even just rearrange a room or drawer. A clean workplace at the end of the year sets the stage for a joyful start next fall.

How do you plan to end the school year? Share your replies in the comments section!

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