Winding Down

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!