Spring Break is over. Hopefully it was glorious, and you feel recharged and rejuvenated and maybe even a little sunburned after a week of not thinking about grading papers, seating charts, the pythagorean theorem, and the SAT. Spring Break is well-timed and good for the teacher soul.
And now it’s over, and there are 6 weeks left in the school year.
But this isn’t just any 6 weeks. The smell of summer is in the air, and students have caught the scent. It’s basically like there’s a full moon for 6 weeks, mixed with standardized testing, Easter candy, and kids who know they are about to have 3 months of freedom. It’s likely your desk has disappeared under a mountain of papers to grade. The cool peel-and-stick wallpaper you bought back in September is starting to come off the wall as sticky fingers have been picking at it for 7 months. Johnny’s mom is finally starting to be concerned about his education as he rolls into the fourth quarter with a failing grade, and you received 3 emails over Spring Break from her asking what Johnny can do to get his grade up.
Teachers, the struggle is real.
You know that the end is in sight, and that somehow you will make it there because you’ve always made it there before, but the task feels just as daunting as it did in year one.
Well this year can be different. Here are tips to not only survive, but thrive the last 6 weeks of the school year.
1. Dive Into a Project!
What is that one big project that has been brewing in the back of your mind all year, but you’ve haven’t been able to pull it off because of lack of time or the need to prep kids for the big test in the Spring? Chances are, the test(s) is over, and you have some space in your curriculum now. Push the desks into tables; bust out the glue sticks and construction paper; take your students outside; dive into a project. This final 6 weeks is the perfect time to make your class hands-on and excite your students with action and movement. If you’re a math teacher, could your students build catapults and trebuchets? English teachers, can your students write children’s books to send to a children’s hospital? Science teachers, the weather is finally ready for a small garden! You can still inject content into this work and make sure they are learning subject matter, but now is an excellent time to get students out of their seats and stay energized the rest of the year.
2. Rainy Day folder
If you do not have one yet, start one now. The rainy day folder is the place you keep all of the kind parent emails (they do exist!), thank you notes, photocopied college acceptance letters, amazing student writing, and any other reminders that the work you are doing is valuable and effective that can be very easy to forget this time of year. On those days in the final two months where students seem to have forgotten your classroom procedures or collectively bomb a test as if they want to show you how bad you are at teaching, the rainy day folder can be a welcome friend to remind you that you are actually a great teacher, and the last 6 weeks of school is just rough sometimes.
3. Don’t lax on your procedures
It can be very easy to take your foot off the gas this time of year, and allow behavior that in December would send a kid to Alcatraz, now just gets them a stern look as you go back to recounting the days until June. You’ve spent all year establishing a culture and methodology in your classroom, and students will continue to adhere to your procedures if that is the expectation. Their inclination might be to act nutty knowing the end of the year is near, but your consistency will make the final months of the year strong and productive as you approach the finish line.
Kids have worked hard this year, and hard work deserves reward. Find a way to celebrate all of the work your students have put in. Have a party, bring in board games, go outside and play ultimate frisbee, hold an award ceremony, take them on a hike- do anything to show them that you value the time you spent with them and you think it was time worth being celebrated.
5. Deepen Relationships
This final stretch you are now in can be some of the most valuable and rich times of the entire school year. Embrace the energy that comes with the anticipation of summer. Dive deeper into those relationships you have been building with students all year. Be an ear for those kids in your class who do not welcome the approaching summer and 3 months away from structure and people like you who care about and for them. This time of year can provoke anxiety for many students, and you can be the source of calm for them. Celebrate the fact that you have almost completed another year of changing the lives of kids in your classroom.
We don’t cherish the summer months because we don’t love the work we do. Summer’s great because we need it. But it’s not here yet, so do what you do best a little bit longer, and let’s finish strong.