Teachers: Five Tips for Closing the School Year Right

From the Principal's Office Updated June 12, 2015

OK, this is it. The school year, which started at the end of last summer, is drawing to a close. Since then you’ve had the privilege and opportunity to influence the lives of young people, and now is the time to move them along in their academic careers. Keep these suggestions in mind as you roll toward the end of the school year:

1. Review year-end expectations with your students

Revisiting classroom management is especially important during the end of the year.

shutterstock_3000625(1)With 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 — the first has to do with how they treat and act toward each other and the second involves their approach to academics. Slacking off in springtime could mean that 20 percent of the school year could be lost. Encourage them to maintain your high standards of behavior and studies.

2. Communicate with parents

A short note to your students’ families will help them keep 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.

3. Prepare for the next teacher

Your students will move on to a new teacher and a new grade level in a few months. It’s good practice to prepare your official reports for the next teacher, 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.

4. 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.

5. Try these quick tips

  • Preach caution: Call a class meeting to remind students not to let their springtime enthusiasm get in the way of their better judgment. I always ask the children not to put me in the awkward position of requiring them to explain their behavior to their parents. That tends to help prevent any unwelcome occurrences that may spoil the end of the school year.
  • Connect to the outside world. It’s a good idea to take a few moments at the end of the school year to have the children brainstorm and then write letters to the sometimes overlooked members of the school community.  Examples could be the school crossing guards, lunch aides, office secretaries and school custodians. If you really want to extend the idea, you may want to take up a small collection from your students and make a donation to a local charity in their name.
  • Have a thoughtful class party. With the permission of your supervisor, plan a well-thought-out end-of-the-year celebration. Check on the kids’ food allergies, get some food and set aside some time to have a retrospective of the year. Perhaps you’ve been taking photos the entire year and would like to present a slide show. Think of all the ways you can help finish the year on a positive note.
  • Build a summer reading list. If you’ve done your job properly, you should finish the school year slightly fatigued, and the two-month break should be a welcome time to recharge your batteries for the next school year. After taking a little bit of time off, I suggest you spend some time reading the works of Paul Farmer, Rachel Simmons, Ted Sizer and Rosalind Wiseman.
  • Say something nice to your boss. And finally, on the very last day of school, after the children are all gone and the halls are silent, just as you are about to leave, please stop by your principal’s office and wish him or her a wonderful summer. As much as I love being a school administrator, it is, from time to time, a bruising career choice, and you’d be surprised at how far a kind word from a teacher goes.

Class dismissed. Have a great summer!


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Brian P. Gatens is the superintendent of schools for the Emerson Public School District in Emerson, New Jersey. He has been an educator for more than two decades, working at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. In “From the Principal’s Office,” Gatens shares advice, provides insights, and gives guidance on everything from what principals look for when interviewing teaching candidates to how to work with overly protective parents. His front-line assessments supply candid perspectives on school life.


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