Blog: Milestones

29 Apr 2019

Winding Down

Winding Down

By: Amber Chandler

When I was five years old, in order to begin my school career, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Holloway, had to pry me off my mother's leg and coax me into her classroom with promises of making a necklace out of macaroni. It worked, and for 40 years, I have calibrated my life to the school calendar, never once starting a year without walking into a classroom, either as a student or a teacher. This is about to change, and I'm both excited and petrified. I've taken a position as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) as the Alternative Learning and Intervention Coordinator. I'll be working with the amazing teachers in my district, collaborating with a guidance counselor whose job has been redefined to work exclusively with these kiddos who need more time and attention, and a principal who is excited to make this happen. The best part is that I will still see students every day, and it is my actual job to figure out ways to make education work for them! However, as I prepared to write this blog, I'm feeling much like my students as the year ends. I teach eighth grade, so they will be leaving the middle school and entering a whole new world as they move on to high school--which is both familiar and completely different. How can we provide closure for our students as the year winds down?

I always try to provide closure for my students, but this year, for obvious reasons, I'm a bit more attuned to the disorientation of change. I've decided to do three things that will help my students (and me) get ready for the summer and the year ahead.

Look Back

So much changes in a school year, and it is often hard to recognize growth. However, in my class we will soon begin Passion Projects, and students will end my class by sharing a 10-minute presentation about something they care deeply about. I snapped tons of pictures as students presented this year—beginning with their one-minute presentation that stressed them all out. I'm going to make sure they remember their former, nervous selves as they now confidently own the podium. I'm in the process of making a video of all the pictures to share with them as a reminder that they have grown into excellent communicators and encourage them to use those skills as they embark on a new journey. I want them to understand that they have developed the skills for this next phase. I want me to understand that I have developed the skills for this next phase.

Give Thanks

It is important to remember who has impacted us along the way. Sometimes, in the midst of living our lives, we don't take the time to tell those who matter the most that we notice the extra effort. I give my students the chance each year to write two thank you notes, one for an elementary teacher or staff member, and one for someone at the middle school. I have my local teacher's center print cards for me to keep the cost down (see image of the card I created at the top of this blog). I put on music, pass out colorful markers, and give students the chance to express gratitude and reflect. I send their cards through interoffice mail, and I love to hear how happy teachers are to get them.

Throughout May and June, every school has those bubbles of time at the end of class or when an exam ends and students need something to do. I'll be leaving a bunch of extra thank you cards in the back of my room for students to grab at their leisure. I want them to practice being thankful for where they're from. I want me to practice being thankful for where I'm from.

Look Ahead

This is the tricky part. I can't exactly tell my students what to expect. I can encourage them to get involved in the many activities that are offered, and I can tell them they will find their place. Most of all, I can let them know that it is ok to be nervous, and it is expected to feel a bit off balance. I can tell them that they have been preparing for this next step all along, and I'll remind them that they are unique and important and will blow their new teachers away. My goal is to help them see their future optimistically by helping them focus on the many opportunities that lie ahead, even if they are a little scared. My goal is to help me see my future optimistically by focusing on the many opportunities that lie ahead, even if I am a little scared.

This month let's meet up on Twitter to talk about how you handle this time of year. What rituals do you have in place to help your students—and you—bring the school year to a meaningful end? Do you have any special projects? Follow me @MsAmberChandler and use #AMLE to join our cross-platform conversation. Also, subscribe to this blog to stay up to date on the topics we're discussing. The question this month is: How can we provide closure for our students as the year winds down? Thanks for your contributions!


Published April 2019.

4 comments on article "Winding Down"

This was such good advice when it comes to students moving on to high school, and giving them the encouragement they need to feel confident in themselves! Reminding students of how unique and capable they are can make a world of difference in their futures once they leave my classroom.

—Lyndsi
5/1/2019 12:02 AM

I love your Passion Project idea! I think that it is a great way for students to be able to show their personalities in the classroom. Sometimes we can get caught up in getting through content, but it is important for each student to have a moment to shine and show something that they are passionate about! Thank you for sharing!

—Jacquelyn
5/3/2019 5:03 PM

I love the idea of looking back and reflecting on growth over the year! Sometimes kids don't realize everything they have learned and accomplished throughout the school year. I love how you mentioned they came in very nervous and now they can confidently own the podium. Thanks for sharing!

—Bailey
5/4/2019 11:09 AM

Thank you for this awesome post! During the academic school year it's easy to get caught up in the day to day task of being a teacher (instruction, meetings, professional development webinars and making copies lol). I think reflecting back on your students' accomplishments is awesome. When I become a teacher, I think it would be awesome to throw a "Reflection Party" and give all my students personalized awards.

—Breahna
5/4/2019 10:46 PM

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Amber Chandler

Amber Chandler is an ELA teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, New York, a recipient of the 2018 AMLE Educator of the Year award, and author of the AMLE/Routledge book The Flexible SEL Classroom. In this blog, Amber examines milestones that make teaching in the middle a truly unique experience, and shares ideas from middle level educators that ensure we reach every student, no matter what it takes. < blog home