Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trust Me: Start Getting Ready for the End of the Year Now

Most dedicated teachers try to work relentlessly until the very last day of school, putting off any work that would make that day and teacher workdays that follow less stressful and more efficient. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks left, here’s a few simple steps to make your life a little bit easier on those last few days.

Before you do anything, take pictures and video of everything. You’ll want to remember things as they were, for a number of reasons.

Start cleaning early. Cleaning what you can plainly see in your classroom, like taking down what’s on the walls and on bookshelves, is actually the easy part. I want you to start digging into your closets, desk drawers and filing cabinets with all the free moments you have. Start bringing things with you that have to go home a little bit at a time. Enlist student help whenever possible (they love to do it, especially if they love you).

"Freecycle" stuff you don't need or want.  You've probably found yourself packing away or transporting tons of junk you've collected over the years.  Over time I learned to ask around and keep my eyes and ears opens for requests for materials.  For example, stacks of old magazines from my classroom library became fodder for future art projects in the English classroom next door. 

Don't procrastinate on end of year paperwork.  Some of the items on the end-of-school check out list just involve signing something or turning in copies of something, so try to do a little each day as the end approaches.

Stop grading immediately (or at least cut down considerably). Seriously, do you really need to be grading every single daily activity at this point? You probably have some kind of major end of year testing or project that’s not due until the last minute and will require a lot of time and effort to grade, so let’s make things a bit easier on yourself. Besides, don’t you also have grades to catch up on from earlier in the semester? Be reasonable with yourself.

Start rounding up things you can check-in/return early. If you begin gathering all the textbooks, technology and other materials you’re responsible for now, two positive things could happen:
  1. You won’t have to scramble for “misplaced” items when it’s nearly too late.
  2. You’ll be able to turn items in early, thus crossing another item off your end-of-school check out list.
Hand out end of year student surveys a few days early. Attendance won’t be great the last few days of school, for a number of reasons (especially if grades have already been turned in), so if you want a more complete and accurate accounting of student feedback you’ll have to act now. Similarly, if you want to say something important to your students, don’t wait until it’s too late.

Have some no-prep stuff to keep kids entertained when it’s unofficially over. Once grades are turned in, and even sometimes when they’re not, it’s inevitable that you’ll have at least one day at the end of the year where all you can do is try to not let your students run wild through the hallways.*** Things like playing cards, Uno, and board games keep kids calm, quiet and seated (most of the time) and won’t be a pain to clean up afterward. Better yet, let responsible students borrow a digital camera or Flip and ask them to record some things for you to remember them by. You’ll probably get some interesting, lasting memories.

***Maybe this doesn’t happen everywhere; I did work in places with extraordinarily low expectations for students and teachers.