It’s almost the end of another school year! This is often a time of rejoicing but it can also be emotional and stressful.
We’ve compiled some strategies here to help you get through the end of this (and every year) with as little stress as possible for you and your learners.
Chunk large tasks and start them early
Often the end of the school year means paperwork, A LOT of paperwork. This can come in the form of large projects, assessments or essays to grade.
It may be some specialized paper work like Summaries of Performance (SOP) and progress reports. It might be something specialized to your specific school or role.
No matter what paperwork you’re looking at, do yourself the kindness of chunking it. If you know you need to do 20 progress reports, for instance, figure out the due date and then break that task into just a few during your prep for a few weeks.
20 progress reports, due in two weeks are just two a day. This is much more do-able than planning to do them in one sitting the day before they’re due.
Look at all your tasks and break them into these manageable bite-sized chunks. If you have time and feel like doing more, then you could always do so, and get them done early which can feel oh so nice.
In fact, whenever possible get anything and everything done early that you can. Many tasks require sign off from different people or departments.
The closer you are to the due date the more busy those people will be. Save yourself a wait and knock that stuff out as soon as you can.
Don’t over assign
I know it’s the end of the year and it’s tempting to assign things to see how much your learners have grown over the school year, but try to resist that urge. First of all, they’re likely trying to study for all their end of the year tests and cumulative assignments. Secondly, you are also busy and probably can’t give the kind of quality feedback learners need.
Do you both a favor and think carefully about what you assign at the end of the school year. Only select assignments and tests that you know are necessary and will make a meaningful addition to your students’ understanding and mastery of your curriculum.
Allowing extra time for students to complete assignments from your class or other classes is helpful and good teaching. It’s always best when students can work with an educator nearby to make sure they’re grasping the concepts and help when they struggle.
Of course, it’s your class and you know what your learners need the most. As the expert you are best equipped to provide it.
Don’t feel like you need to assign anything at the end of the school year just so your learners can remain busy. If you truly need something to fill the time without accumulating more to grade, perhaps explore some mindfulness with your learners.
Allow your learners to help
Everyone gets a bit squirrely at the end of the school year. Learners are excited for summer and possibly worried about the next school year or stressed from all the testing they’ve faced over the last month (Tips on chill testing here). Sometimes a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.
Since the end of the year often comes with a lot of what I call “fetch quests” to drop things off or move things to another spot in the school or simply to obtain a signature, many of these tasks are ideal for your squirrely friends.
I’m not suggesting you press them into service like a little minion army, but I honestly never wanted for eager volunteers.
In addition to physical help, I also had students who wanted to help friends to study or complete work or otherwise serve as a peer tutor. This is another way you can accept help.
Often there are some rather high-needs students at the end of the year who may be taking up your time and attention. By allowing students who grasp the concept and want to help to do so, you are able to provide more support to your students.
Of course you know what’s appropriate for your classes and your school. However, if possible, it’s always a good idea to allow students to take a leading role in their classes.
Have a storage plan
Speaking of moving things around the school, you may find yourself uprooted at the end of the year. Many schools expand, or reconfigure pretty frequently. Teachers retire or quit and rooms are shuffled. This is the usual way it goes.
Even if you’re staying in your room over the summer there is likely to be cleanings, and possibly the space will be rented out.
Nothing is more of a bummer than coming back from summer holidays and finding your stuff in disarray.
Handle this head-on by having a storage plan for your important stuff. As a traveling teacher, I had my trusty rolling box. I would find a teacher I was friendly with who was keeping their room and ask for space in their storage cabinets.
That was just an example. Maybe you are keeping your room, but you want to start moving some things into storage. Maybe you have no idea where you’ll be next school year and you need to start boxing things up and bringing them home with you.
Whatever the case is, communicate early with your administration and create a plan for what they have in mind. If you communicate early you can even do as we suggested at the beginning of this blog and chunk your packing and moving tasks into smaller ones and complete them over a matter of weeks instead of crunching at the end of the year or staying a few days into the summer holidays.
Keep up that self-care
The very first thing that I often dropped at the end of the school year was self-care. Most days I was lucky to show up on time, dressed and fairly presentable on those last few months of the school year.
It leads to a lot of burnout and a lot of stress. So, take the same advice you give the learners and take care of yourself!
Make sure you are scheduling things that are fun for you. Make sure you are taking the time to eat meals, to move your body, to listen to music and to do all the other things that keep you at your best.
It’s so easy to label yourself “low priority” and say you’ll make it up to you once the school year is done, but even though that seems like a good plan, you’re not actually bringing your best self around. A run-down you will make more mistakes, have less patience and generally be less effective than you would have been if you had stayed on your self-care game.
So, remember, you can’t put out a fire with an empty cup, and take good care of you!
Don’t over commit
The end of the year is a deluge of activities. There are end of the year recitals for all the performing arts, there are often formal dances, there are happy hours with your educator besties, there are awards ceremonies, and much, much more. There are just too many things to count sometimes.
You can’t go to all of them. It’s not possible and it’s not healthy. This goes back to having time for your own self-care. If you go to everything that happens at the end of the school year there will be precious little time for anything else.
Pick your attendance carefully. Obviously your school will have events where your attendance is mandatory but for everything else, make strategic decisions. Pick the events you are most passionate about, or the ones you have the most students participating in.
Get comfortable being a “solid maybe” on some things and seeing how you feel and if you have extra time once the event comes around.
It would be better to say you might come than that you certainly will and not have the time at the last minute. You’ll feel much better just committing to what you’re confident you have time for, then over committing and feeling frazzled all through the end of the year.
Give yourself permission to be emotional
The end of the school year is the end of a journey. At the beginning of the year, you and your learners were strangers. Over this time, you have learned about each other, grown together and possibly gone through some rough or turbulent stuff together.
Like all ends to a journey, this is a time of big emotions. You may feel sad, anxious, excited, and exhilarated, possibly all at once.
Don’t fight the feeling! It’s even okay to cry.
It might be a good time to model for your students how a person with a healthy relationship with their emotions handles big emotions. You can communicate how you feel and why you feel it, and it may give them permission to feel their big feels too.
Feel how you feel. Don’t judge the feelings or try to deny them. This is a big change and it’s ok to feel however it makes you feel.
Actually take time off
This one may be a hard sell, but hear us out!
Sometimes there is too much going on at the end of the year and what you really need is a day at home to get some stuff done, uninterrupted. Maybe you’re having those big feelings I mentioned and you need time to process and think. Maybe you’re just a little loopy and need to work on that self care.
No matter what the reason is, it is a very good idea to take a day (or two!) off. Not only will this be a much needed break for you, but it could give your students a little breather too. Gifting them a work day or a movie day can really ease the strain at the end of the year.
The end of the year is just like any other time of the year. Your sub days still count. You shouldn’t feel guilty about using them if you need them.
As I found out, there is not actually an award for the person who buries themselves the most with work at the end of the year. There’s no reason to avoid taking the time you need to provide the best quality education that your learners need.
Hopefully, you found these tips helpful. Maybe you already knew them all, but it’s always nice to have a reminder. Maybe this is your first year teaching, and this is all new to you.
No matter where you are on your professional journey, remember that you know what you need best. Listen to yourself and give yourself what you need, no matter what part of the year it is.
Be patient and gentle with yourself, and make it a great end of the school year!
What are your best end of year pro tips? Share them with the community in the comments!