How to Finish the School Year Strong
I know you’re tired. You’re stressed. You’re about to stab a pencil in your eye if you have to grade one more paper.
Your to-do list is a mile long. And summer is so close you can taste it.
But in the midst of all the chaos and anticipation, I want to encourage you to do one thing:
Remember why you’re here.
You want to make a difference.
You want to help kids.
So pause a moment, look around, and really see your students.
Peek over your monstrous stack of papers to see the girl who’s lower lip is trembling in fear over the upcoming test.
Let go of your frustration long enough to notice the panic in the eye of the teen who just got busted for cheating – even though he’s desperately trying to hide it with his shrugged shoulders and bravado.
In a few short weeks (maybe even days) when you’re lying by the pool soaking up the sun with a good book, what will you remember?
Will you have simply survived – finished your to-do list and washed your hands of the place?
Or will you have taken every opportunity to impact the lives of your students?
Because here’s the truth. This time, right now at the end of the year. This time can be the most valuable.
You know these kids. You’ve invested in their lives. You’ve built relationships.
And while they may be driving you up a wall, you are likely more able to speak into their lives now than you ever were before.
I promise the summer will be here soon. But until then, don’t phone it in. Don’t coast. Don’t go through the motions.
You only have a few more days to impact your students. Don’t waste that time. Don’t give up yet. These last few days can make all the difference!
How to Finish the School Year Strong
- Don’t coast; instead, be more intentional. Don’t allow yourself to go on autopilot. Instead, choose to be intentional about making these last days count. Set one or two end-of-the-year goals and make it a priority to do all you can to influence your students during these last few days.
- Keep first things first. When you’re overwhelmed and there are a million things to do, remember to keep first things first. Focus on what really matters and realize that the rest will get done eventually. (You might also want to try the intentional procrastinating to-do list system.)
- Draw on relationships you’ve built. You’ve spent a whole year building relationships with your students and their parents, and as a result, you likely have more influence now than you ever did before. You may never get another chance to inspire them, believe in them, guide them, or counsel them. So take advantage of every opportunity you get to speak the truth and impact their lives.
- Strategically prioritize what to teach. If you’ve got way more material to cover than you have time to teach, don’t just keep plodding along. Instead, sit down and decide what is most important for them to learn. Then focus on that.
- Don’t plan to finish teaching too early. For those of you who are right on track and are about to finish your curriculum, I have a word of caution for you – don’t finish too early. One of my first years I finished my math curriculum a week early, planning review games for the last week. The problem was that once I told the kids we were done with the book, they turned into crazy people. Well, not really, but it was definitely much harder to keep them focused. Since then, I’ve scheduled the final test closer to the last day of school.
- Communicate with parents. Don’t just turn in your final grades and walk out the door. Take the time to have one last communication with the parents of kids who have struggled in your class. Give them suggestions of things they can do over the summer to help prepare their student for the next year. Even if you don’t think they’ll heed your advice, taking a few moments to send them a final email shows them how much you care about their student.
- Try to leave things as organized as possible. Notice I said try. Yes, there’s a bazillion things to do, but the more organized you can leave things now, the smoother things will go next fall. So take a few moments to jot down notes for yourself of what worked and what didn’t. And maybe even to tackle those disastrous desk drawers. (Do I dare even mention the closet?)
- Decide to enjoy these last days. Simple but profound. Instead of counting every moment till you’re done, choose to enjoy these last days you have with this group of students. Soon school will be over and you’ll be relaxing. But this opportunity – your time with these students – will be done. So choose to enjoy these days while you have them and to view them as a gift. This one mental decision will impact everything else you do.
So teacher, this is your chance. This is your moment.
Take a breath, pray for strength, and make each day count.
And if you can somehow manage to wrap up the year without thrusting a pencil in your eye, that’d be even better.