End this year on a thoughtful note

woman wearing gray long sleeved shirt and black black bottoms outfit sitting on gray wooden picnic table facing towards calm body of water at daytime
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

It’s the end of another school year, and that means lots of lists, lots of dotting i’s and crossing t’s.

Check in the textbooks. Box up the classroom shelves. Try to impose order on the chaotic school-year filing system.

Then, return the IEP/accommodation plan binders to the office. Turn in final grades. Report progress toward this year’s official improvement goals.

Check, check, check.

The end of the year always brings a sense of accomplishment and closure, but it also brings a roller coaster of emotions: sadness, exhaustion, irritation, impatience, relief. We love our students; we’ll miss them; and sometimes we’re tired of them, ready to see them go.

Somewhere in this process, we need space and time for a little more serious reflection on how this year went — and what we could do better next year. Rather than slamming the door on this year’s grade book and breathing easier once the most challenging kids leave for the last time, we need to actually stop, think and learn from our year.

Here are some questions to consider as you’re grading the late tests and shredding the old bubble sheets. Not as an administrative hoop to jump through, but just for you.

  • What was my greatest (or most surprising) victory this year? For me, it was seeing how much better my AP Macro students performed when I flipped the class and gave them class time to work through problems, rather than listen to me lecture. Also, I managed some fairly challenging parent emails without getting frustrated or flustered this year!
  • What was my worst mistake or biggest disappointment? I hate this question, but it’s necessary. I didn’t pay close enough attention to two of my senior boys, who were floating by just above passing. I was so focused on my overwhelmed freshmen that I didn’t notice quickly enough when these seniors started to trend lower.
  • Which relationships need more attention? Relationships with colleagues. I’m part-time, and I’m not in the building in the afternoon, and this is the first year I rarely made it to lunch with my department. I regret that because I work with great people, and I feel disconnected now. I miss their insight, as well as their humor. I need to make more effort next year.
  • What did I learn from my students? Among many things, I learned that performance doesn’t capture a student’s experience. One boy, who struggled all year, shocked me by thanking me last week for making Psych class so interesting. If it hadn’t been so engaging, he said, he would have stopped coming. He’s going to take it again in college, possibly even pursue it, despite the difficulties he had.
  • If I had it to do again, what would I do differently this year? This could be a long list. #1? I wish I would have used more team-learning in Psych and given them more opportunities to discuss and apply the concepts they were learning. That’s also on the agenda for next year.

I hope you have a wonderful end to the school year and a restful, recuperative summer!

Martha Rush is a teacher, blogger, author and speaker. Visit NeverBore.org or join the NeverBore LLC Facebook group for more information. @MarthaSRush

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