Want to make the most of these last weeks & finish the school year strong? Here's ten things NOT to do:
The last weeks of school can be insane. Between finishing curriculum, preparing for finals, clearing out our rooms, planning end-of-the-year activities, and (of course) dealing with kids who are more than ready to be done, we teachers sure have our hands full!
But just because things are crazy doesn’t mean these last weeks have to be miserable.
On the contrary! These final weeks of school can be the best of the whole year – if you’re intentional about making the most of them.
I was going to write a list of ten things to do the last weeks of school, but you have enough on your plate as it is! So, instead, let’s talk about ten things not to do.
If you avoid these ten mistakes, you’ll walk away feeling great about how you finished strong and took full advantage of every moment you had.
what NOT to do the Last Weeks of School
1. Don’t freak out.
I don’t know about you, but when my to-do list grows larger than the time I have to complete it, I start to freak out a bit. My stress level rises and I get more irritable with the interruptions.
Just me? (I’m guessing not…)
When things get crazy, we need to intentionally stop and refocus. Take a deep breath. Pray. And remember that everything will get done. We just need to focus and stay in the moment – remembering that people are more important than tasks.
2. Don’t throw out all your rules/expectations.
The closer we get to summer, the more tempting it is to throw out our rules and just let things slide. But if we fall into this trap, we quickly find ourselves with a mess on our hands, and each day becomes a bigger and bigger battle.
Instead, simply stick with what’s worked all year. Keep expectations high and continue to enforce rules and procedures. When you do, you’ll find that these final weeks go much more smoothly, your students continue to learn, and you’re able to end the year on a high note.
3. Don’t stop teaching/learning.
I remember one year where we were scheduled to finish our curriculum a week early. We’d worked hard all year, so I figured we’d take that last week and just do fun activities.
Not that you can’t do fun activities, but in my mind, we were done, and I communicated that to the students. As a result, the students were mentally checked out, and I struggled to keep even a modicum of order and relevance during our final week of “fun” activities.
Does this mean you can’t do anything fun the last weeks of school? Of course not. But make sure your students realize you are going to continue to learn through the final days. That learning may take different forms – group projects or fun review activities can be fantastic. But make it a point that you’re not done till school’s done.
4. Don’t coop yourself up indoors.
If you teach up north, the weather is just now finally starting to be nice, and everyone is dying to get outside after being cooped up for months.
Rather than fighting the natural stir-craziness, consider embracing it. Plan an outdoor learning activity – or simply move class outside as you’re able.
5. Don’t wish the days away.
Countdowns can be fun, but if we’re dying for the countdown to reach zero, we’re not going to be very effective during the final weeks of school.
Instead of wishing the days away, intentionally choose to make the most of them. These are your last days with this group of students – and when they’re done, they’re done.
I promise summer will be here soon enough, but these days are precious. Choose to savor them and to use them to make a difference.
6. Don’t stop communication with parents.
You’ve been going back and forth with parents all year, and you might feel like just letting it slide during these final weeks. But that would be a mistake.
Your time with the student may be drawing to a close, but the parent/student relationship isn’t going anywhere. So continue to communicate, especially about ways the parent can help their student succeed going forward.
7. Don’t save all your wrap-up work for the last minute.
You do not want to end the last day of school with mounds of papers still left to grade, an entire room to disassemble, and 392 other tasks that need to be completed before you can leave for the summer.
Talk about stress!
Instead, work ahead as much as possible, and engage students to help deconstruct and organize your room. (Angela Watson has an incredible system for deconstructing your room in one day here.)
8. Don’t forget to reflect and celebrate what you’ve learned.
Too often we simply race to the end and never stop to look back at what we’ve accomplished.
Instead, plan time to reflect with your class on all you’ve learned and the progress you’ve made. Acknowledging and celebrating that success will leave everyone with a sense of accomplishment.
Don’t forget to reflect on a personal level, too. You may choose to save an in-depth reflection for the summer, but plan time to look back, celebrate your successes, and make plans for continued growth.
9. Don’t leave a monstrous mess.
The temptation to simply throw everything in your closet and lock the door is real. But is that really what you want to come back to in the fall?
Taking even a few minutes to organize what you can now will make your life so much easier next August.
So clean out those drawers. Throw out all those old papers. And do what you can to leave your room in a state that you won’t dread coming back to in a few months.
10. Don’t miss a chance to make a difference.
These last few weeks hold the biggest potential for meaningful conversations that can truly impact the rest of your students’ lives.
Why? Because you’ve spent a whole year building relationships, and you have all of that relational capital to draw on.
Furthermore, as things wind down and you plan time to review and reflect, there’s often more opportunities for meaningful conversation - or even purposeful rabbit trails about things that matter.
Be looking for these opportunities. Embrace them. Savor them. Pray for more of them. These may be the last chances you have to impact many of these students.
Praying these last weeks are productive and meaningful. And as you think ahead to the summer, we’d love to have you in one of our book clubs. You can find out more about the book clubs here.
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