By Brian P. Gatens
Memorial Day is five weeks away, and summer will be here before you know it. If you’d rather not spend the coming weeks limping towards the finish line, try these tips to end the school year on a positive note:
Review Year-End Expectations with Your Students
Revisiting classroom management is especially important during the end of the year. With the onset of spring and the looming summer vacation, it’s a good idea to sit with your students and spend some time reviewing your expectations for their personal and academic behavior. Notice that I distinguished two types of behavior: personal and academic. The first has to do with how they treat and act towards each other. The second has to do with their approach to academics. Slacking off inside the last two months could mean that 20 percent of the school year could be lost. Encourage them to maintain your high standards of behavior and studies.
Communicate with Parents
A short note to your students’ families will assist them in keeping the focus on school. Let the parents know you understand the demands of life outside of school, but that school is still in session and your expectations still need to be met. A personal phone call to a home or two of your more challenging students would also be a good idea.
Prepare for the Next Teacher
Your students will move on to a new teacher and a new grade level in only four months, and it’s a good practice to prepare your official reports for the next teacher and to pass along relevant information. Here’s an important caveat, though: You have to strike a balance between preparing the next year’s teacher for a child’s individual needs, but you don’t want to share so much that the teacher has a negative view of the child. All of your comments should be growth-oriented, focusing on helping the child succeed. Please don’t use these comments as an opportunity to unload on the child or the child’s family. You should share only what is helpful, compassionate and good for the child.
Review Expectations with Your Administrator
Each school has its own year-end expectations for teachers. Your supervisor should eventually forward you a list of requirements to wrap up the school year. Take your time to review that list and be sure to ask any necessary questions. Schools are funny places, as everything is pretty much shut down for two months and then brought back to life only two months later. In those two months, much has to happen in the school to get ready for the new school year — major cleaning initiatives, the arrival and distribution of supplies, hiring of new teachers and accommodating any summer programs. Your assistance in leaving your classroom ready for the summer will be much appreciated by both your administration and your school’s custodial staff.
When all is said and done, be sure to take pride and joy in the completing a year as a teacher. Over the past 10 months you’ve had the chance to better the lives of children, and that’s a great way to spend your days.
An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, N.J. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and now superintendent/principal.