How To Make It To The End Of The School Year


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How To Make It To The End Of The School Year

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How To Make It To The End Of The School Year

  1. 1. How to Make it to the End of the School Year<br />If the school year has flown by but now is creeping along, you’re not alone. Many teachers this time of year are teaching students who are anxious about the school year ending and summer just around the corner. Unfortunately, the summer isn’t that close just yet.<br /><ul><li>60 Ways to Survive and Thrive by Julia G. Thompson
  2. 2. The Instructor’s (Brief) Guide to De-Stressing in the Final Weeks of School by Katt Blackwell
  3. 3. Flexible Planning by Kate Olson
  4. 4. Focus on the Positive by Lisa Cooper
  5. 5. A Secret Word by Kelly Tenkely
  6. 6. Break Up the Monotony by Katt Blackwell</li></ul>60 Ways to Survive & Thrive as the School Year Ends<br />As the end of the school year approaches, students of all ages and ability levels become increasingly restless and distracted. Even the most studious scholars seem to lose interest in material that fascinated them just a few weeks ago. The result can be enormous frustration for the teachers of these fidgety and disengaged students.<br />Veteran teachers know about this unfortunate phenomenon and take measures to combat its negative effects. If you have noticed a recent change in your students and find yourself checking a calendar to count off just how many school days you have left until summer vacation, the list below just may help you resolve to end the school year with the best and most professional attitude possible.<br />The first part of this list suggests some attitudes that may remind you of coping skills you may have forgotten. The second part contains some useful strategies that you may have forgotten, but that can energize your teaching and make school more enjoyable and productive for your students and yourself. <br />60 Helpful Attitudes<br />1. Be moderate in your approach. You do not have to be the world’s best teacher all the time. You just have to be a very good one.<br />2. Spend your energy on large problems first and allot less of your energy for the small ones. Choose to deal with the problems that will give you the greatest benefit right away.<br />3. Problems can move you forward when you choose to work to solve them. Use your creative strengths to make your classroom well-disciplined and productive.<br />4. Make room for more emotional energy. Ask for help when you have a problem.<br />5. Learn to see problems as challenges that you can overcome.<br />6. Don’t underestimate your students. They are capable of much more than you think they are.<br />7. Avoid negative people. Better yet, try not to be one of those negative people you are supposed to avoid.<br />8. Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems. A positive attitude means that you are working on a solution.<br />9. Make sure you have something fun to look forward to. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal.<br />10. You don’t teach a class. You teach complex, living, breathing people.<br />11. Cherish your students. Even the worst-behaved ones have redeeming qualities.<br />12. Carpe Diem! When a teachable moment comes along, TEACH!<br />13. Don’t forget that small attitude changes often create bigger patterns of success. What small attitude change can you make today?<br />14. When a task seems impossible, remind yourself of the teachers who made a difference in your life. You can do the same for your students.<br />15. The fun you have goofing around during your planning period is equal to the misery you’ll experience trying to catch up later.<br />16. Be proactive! Plan what you are going to do if…<br />17. Discard something you’re doing that is not productive. Figure out how to do just one thing more efficiently.<br />18. Practice deep breathing. You’ll be glad you know how to calm yourself when a student is defiant, disrespectful, or just cranky.<br />19. Make it your goal that every student will leave your class with a positive attitude every day.<br />20. Use your strengths. Focus on your positive attributes to maximize the potential for success in your classroom.<br />21. Keep things in perspective. Ask yourself if the problems you have today will be important next year.<br />Try Some Strategies You May Have Forgotten<br />22. Talk less and listen more to your students.<br />23. Change the pace. Try three new activities this week.<br />24. Break large tasks into small, manageable ones.<br />25. Plan to ignore the small stuff.<br />26. Get to work a little early and stay a little late.<br />27. Stop trying to rely on your memory! You have too much to do to recall everything. Write it down in an organized fashion.<br />28. Be sure to plan for the last few minutes of class.<br />29. Empower your students by designing assignments that allow for limited student options. Give them innocuous choices such as the even or odd problems, essay topics, group tasks, or the best day to take a test.<br />30. You probably need to model more for your students. Most teachers do. And don’t forget to show them what you don’t want them to do, also.<br />31. Ask students to justify their answers on a test to encourage deeper thinking.<br />32. Let your students know what activities lie ahead of them so that they have something to look forward to. Try a little countdown to an exciting event to focus them on the positive.<br />33. Encourage independence! Tell your students that they must “See three before me” to find answers to questions.<br />34. At the end of a lesson, encourage reflection (and positive attitudes) by asking students to tell you what went well during class.<br />35. Build in wiggle breaks. Even seniors need a break now and then.<br />36. When students are engaged in learning new material, periodically ask them to stop and write about these three topics: what they think about the subject so far, what they understand about the subject, and any questions they still may have.<br />37. Don’t work against the nature of your students. Make the material compelling by incorporating their interests and goals. When you were a teenager, you thought the world revolved around you, too.<br />38. Stimulate student curiosity by making your lessons as suspenseful and novel as possible. Ask students to solve puzzles or create solutions to problems.<br />39. Put some color in your classroom world. Break out the crayons or highlighters to help students pay attention to what’s important in their notes.<br />40. Lower your voice. Your students will be more likely to lower theirs than if you shout.<br />41. Avoid problems when students finish work early by having other activities for them to complete. Students with nothing to do will amuse themselves by annoying nearby adults.<br />42. Increase the frequency of the positive recognition you give students.<br />43. Display student work. Rewarding students in this way is worth the time it takes to arrange it.<br />44. Put a list of terms or facts on the board and ask your students to determine what they have in common. If you include unlikely names or items, the class discussion could be lively.<br />45. At the end of a unit of study, give students a sheet with the alphabet in a column on the left. To review, they need to tell you one important fact from the lesson is related to a letter of the alphabet.<br />46. Show a movie. Be sure to teach good movie viewing behavior before you do. Better yet, have your students make a movie or slide show.<br />47. Avoid acting in anger no matter how frustrated you feel. Manage the discipline problems in your class with a problem-solving approach instead.<br />48. Set a concrete goal with your students: 100% on every quiz, everyone on time for a week, all homework complete… Use a bar graph to illustrate their progress.<br />49. Graphic organizers are wonderful ways to engage students. Busy students are happy students and happy students make happy teachers.<br />50. Use a variety of media to capture your audience—movies, art, wikis, songs, podcasts, television, interactive game sites, magazines, advertisements, cartoons, and slogans are just a few of the ways that you can capture attention.<br />51. When they ask, “Why do we have to do this?” be sure to have an excellent answer ready.<br />52. Use your student’s competitive instincts to your advantage. Create teams to compete against other teams. Best of all, challenge your students to compete against themselves by working to improve their own best performance.<br />53. Center instruction on essential questions.<br />54. Ask students to demonstrate the best way to do something.<br />55. Make abstract ideas concrete. Ask students to produce a final product as the result of their work. This makes their effort visible.<br />56. Assign a set of questions to a group of students. Each student selects one question and becomes the expert about it. They can share with the entire class or with teams.<br />57. Your part of the workload should not always be greater than your students’ part. Hold them accountable for setting goals, monitoring their own progress, and self-evaluation.<br />58. Ask your students to invent a game for a review activity.<br />59. Take photographs of your students. Be thrifty and print them on paper. Your students just want to see themselves on the classroom wall.<br />60. Schedule in some fun every day—for you and for your students. Smile together and misbehavior will decrease.<br />The Instructor’s Guide to De-Stressing in the Final Weeks of School<br />Well, for most of us, we have about a month left before the end of the semester. Some of us are reaching that weary point of exhaustion and stress that always come with a mound of papers that won’t grade themselves, more classes to teach, and not enough energy to do both (and finish coursework for those of us still on the education track). So, when I got an email from The Apple yesterday, it got me thinking of what really should get onto the blog ASAP. I was just short of taking a mini-break from blogging, but instead, I think I’ll give everybody with a few idea for de-stressing in these “final four” weeks of school. Don’t try to tackle that mound of grading all at once<br />You have a month before final grades need to be in. Sure, the pile is calling your name, but I highly recommend you follow the method one of my colleagues recommends. Set a goal to grade 4 or 5 individual papers (or tests each day). By the end of the week, that pile will be significantly smaller.<br />Have a Grading Party<br />If you just can’t set aside the time to grade those papers a little at a time, throw a grading party for yourself and several of your colleagues. You have to be careful who you invite, though. If you know that one of your colleagues is going to talk through the entire thing and keep you from getting nothing done, it’s probably not a good idea to invite that one. You can discreetly plan the gathering via email or phone calls. Then, order a pizza, set a specific time line for grading and then reward yourself for getting some of the grading done. My colleagues and I plan to grade for about three hours and then, at the end of the session, we’ll go out for coffee or some other relaxing treat.<br />Get Away From it All<br />There is no written rule that says you simply must accomplish everything right now. If you’re feeling overcome by the stress, take a break. Go to the local bookstore and browse the best sellers. Buy a new book. Take a stroll in the park. Go to the zoo. Get a pedicure. Whatever you choose, vow to yourself that while you’re engaged in this activity you will not think about the pile of things to do at home. If you don’t think it’s possible, invite a friend that you don’t work with. You have a chance to get caught up on each other’s lives and it will keep you from thinking about the “to-do” list at home.<br />Make a List<br />I understand that this only works really well for those of us who are true “Type-A” personalities, but I think it can be rewarding for everyone. Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then cross each thing off when you get through with it. It’s always rewarding to see the list getting smaller.<br />Hold Class Outside<br />This is my last (and favorite suggestion). I love to plan a day of just talking to my students about their papers and then, instead of keeping them cooped up beneath the florescent lights in the classroom, I’ll take them outside. It’s a great way to get students a bit more relaxed, relieve some stress, and get them geared up for the rest of class. I did this with my students yesterday and the results were amazing. They talked about their papers and asked a lot of questions. We were outside for over an hour and yet they seemed to think only a few minutes had gone by. This is always a method for not only de-stressing the instructor, but the student as well. Besides, sunshine :)<br />Flexible Planning<br />1) Shake things up a bit – if you’re used to doing daily journaling in a notebook, try doing the journaling on a computer or even blogging with your students – adding technology to lessons isn’t difficult and it can really help with student engagement, especially at a time of year when attentions are drawn elsewhere<br />2) Have a cumulative project that is due very close to the end of the school year. Many teachers tend to wind down at the last month of school, but if the students know there work is leading up to something, they have more desire to keep working hard.<br />3) Teachers can keep their own morale up by staying organized and not letting the end-of-year craziness overwhelm them. Plan flexible lessons so that if field trips or other school activities interrupt your schedule you’ll be able to adapt. Try to get excited about preparing for the next year – any time spent doing this in the spring will make next fall that much easier! Also, all of your reflections about this year’s lessons are still fresh, so make notes of how you would adapt lessons for the future.<br />4) Most importantly, take advantage of the usually beautiful weather at the end of the school year and take your students outside! Plan lessons that can be conducted outdoors and students will be much more excited about the topic. A little fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for motivation!<br />Focus on the Positive<br />Try to stay focused on the positive instead of the many, many negative things that go on at the end of the year. It is a stressful time with testing, restless kids who think the year is over, and behaviors just seem to grate on your nerves a bit more….not to mention the business of school regarding rumors and facts regarding placements for the next year and those oh so popular performance reviews. I stay busy with my final letter to each of my students whether I have a contained group of 25 or a departmentalized group of 110. I have sent the same letter since I started teaching and with this year over 500 children have received it. While the body of each letter is the same I spend some time to write a postive personal note for each child. This helps me to focus in on each individual regarding their social and academic growth over the past year. The process helps me to sort out exactly how each and every student played a role in our learning community, and it helps me value each and every student for their personal contribution to my school year. While it’s true that I have to really spend some time thinking about particular students because they might not have been an ideal student, the exercise is extremely valuable to my growth as a professional educator, and I find that as their little bodies leave my room on that last day of school I really do hate to see each one walk out the door, and my tears are genuine.<br />Sample Of The Letter<br />Saying Goodbye to Students<br />I finally managed to get our team awards done yesterday and gave them to my team members so they could verify signatures, etc. I typed up awards for all as all year in each academic area, and most improved in each homeroom. The front office prepared our certificates for all As all year, all As and Bs all year, and perfect attendance----the usual, you know. As a team we decided to give our awards tomorrow so if there is some sort of mistake it can be corrected in time to give a new certificate to a student. As of 3:30 p.m. we still did not have our certificates the office was going to prepare. I hope we get them tomorrow morning.My plan is to give out awards, have students place them in their book bags, clean out desks, and take up textbooks. I’ll have the students help me clean out files, inventory and reorganize my classroom library, dust, sweep, and step-and-fetch. We clean in my classroom at least once every nine weeks and the little darling loves it. I wonder if they are this helpful at home. Never mind, I’m a mom. I know the answer.One of the things I give out to all of my students is my final farewell letter to them. I’ve taught siblings of my students and invariably someone will say, “Oh, my sister still has her letter.” One young man told me last year that his mom keeps my letter in his older brother’s file with all of his awards.The first year I taught I tried to hand the letter out and then read it aloud. I ended up crying, they ended up crying, and I don’t have to tell you how young people can become very dramatic. So I usually fold the letter in half and write their name on the paper. I hand them out and instruct everyone not to open their letter until everyone has theirs. Once everyone opens their letter together and begins to read I try to busy myself in a hurry. I put things away, I straighten papers, or I simply walk back and forth acting like I’m doing something. Invariably I catch a few girls and even boys wipe a tear away. Some of my strong, young men will put their heads down and wipe their eyes out of view. Luckily no one tries to hug me or I think I would just die.As of tomorrow 380 students have received my letter. Here is what it says:Dear Students:At the end of my first year teaching I wanted to bring the year to a close by writing a note to my students. This letter has become a tradition---every student who has passed through my classroom has received this letter as my farewell. It is amazing to me that 380 students have received this letter so far. Please take the advice I give you to heart, and never forget that I care about your success.The following is a poem written by Shel Silverstein---I thought it was appropriate for this point in your lives. Mr. Silverstein wrote:All the woulda-coulda-shouldasLayin’ in the Sun,Talkin’ ‘bout the things-They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…But those woulda-coulda-shouldasAll ran away and hidFrom one little did.During your last year of elementary school followed by middle school and high school concentrate on doing things that will have a positive effect on your lives. Choose your friends wisely, listen to your parents and teachers, and do the very best you possibly can in everything you attempt.On your final day of high school don’t look back on the things you would have done, could have done, or should have done. My hope is that you will look back on a fine, long list of accomplishments that happened because you aimed high, took chances, lived up to your potential, and most importantly you did something.I will always consider myself to be your teacher. I hope you will stay in touch through the coming years to let me share in your success.With fond memories of each of you, I remain,ElementaryhistoryteacherAh, another year almost over.........<br />A Secret Word<br />I do institute a secret word of the day the last month of school. I tell the kids a new secret word each day and whenever they hear that word they have to do something like stand up and hop on one foot or pat their heads or put their finger on their nose. It keeps them paying attention (they all want to be the first to hear the secret word) and gives them a few seconds of silliness to get them through the days. On the last day of school I ask them how many secret words they can remember….some years they really surprise me!<br />Break Up the Monotony<br />I noticed the glazed look on my students’ faces before class has even begun this recently. I usually do one of two things when we get to this point of the semester and it’s always based on the personality of the group thus far in the semester.<br />Group projects are great to break up the monotony of listening to lectures. It gives students the chance to “take over” the class for awhile and show off their own work. It’s also a great way to give teachers a break as well. We don’t have to lecture for days and get to relax and watch the students take over.<br />Another thing that I do is to get the students out of the desks for a day. I’ll get them to sit in a circle at the front of the class and we’ll spend part of the class just talking about what’s going on in their life and classes outside of our own. We’ll spend some time talking about stress management and getting through the final weeks of classes. I think it’s good for students to have a chance to talk about all the other things going on in their lives and see how others are coping with similar stress. If it’s a warm day outside and I don’t think the group will get too rowdy, I’ll take them outside for this discussion and sit on a sunny patch of cool grass. It always seems to get everybody a bit more relaxed.<br />Specifically for the teachers, I highly recommend having a stress free gathering towards the end of the semester. I get my colleagues together one Saturday for something we don’t do often. The group determines what we do, but in the past we’ve done everything from getting together for a short coffee break to having a picnic in the local park.<br />