Teaching is an unusual profession in that we have such pronounced cycles of beginning and ending. For many teachers, June can be a challenging month with end-of-school festivities, field trips, getting materials sent home, and packing up the room. It can also be an emotional time as we change our routines and begin separating from social relationships. Here are some tips to help things go smoothly at the end of the school year.
Keep Routines the Same. Although you will have special activities at the end of the year, the children also need stability. Transitions – even happy ones – can be unsettling and the more the structure of the day stays the same, the more you will prevent stress behaviors. Keep the children busy and engaged!
Plan Goodbye Rituals. The children and you have developed strong relationships with each other. Acknowledge this with rituals to help ease the separation from each other. These might be picnics, parent events, or pizza parties. Emphasize how important you have all been to each other and celebrate your community. Let the children know you will miss them and talk about the emotions they might feel about leaving each other. Concrete ways of capturing the sense of community might include autograph books, t-shirts with children’s names on them, a slide show of the past year, or memory cards in which children write compliments to each other.
Prepare for the Transition to the Next Grade. As much as possible, help the children know where they will be going in the fall, and what aspects might be the same or different. In many schools, administrators do not let families know until right before school starts who the next teacher will be. Although this prevents many administrative headaches, it’s very difficult for families and children. In a perfect world, children would meet their new teacher before school ends, and know what classroom they will be attending.
Review the Year. Take this opportunity to teach children how to reflect on their progress. The children can write down (or dictate) their best accomplishments, and their goals for the next year. You might write a class letter to the children that will be coming in September to give them advice for the next year.
Say Goodbye to Families. Provide the families with some type of closure and goodbye message. This might be a letter to each family highlighting their child’s accomplishments (the children can help with this), or a short meeting to review the school year. Prepare the families for what they might expect for next year. The more information you can give, the less anxiety and stress the families – and children – will feel.
Stay Organized. Think through the steps you will take to get the children’s belongings home, any books or materials you need to collect, and what you will need to put away. Make a list or use post-it notes to keep organized.
Make Plans for September. This is the ideal time to write yourself notes about what you will want to remember when you start the new school year. What went well that you want to continue? What do you want to change? Different routines? Better seating arrangements? Activities that the children particularly enjoyed? We might think we will remember, but over the summer it’s easy to forget the little changes you want to make.
Manage the Stress. This is a busy time of year and an emotional one. You’ve spent 10 months or more with your class and saying goodbye is an emotional process. Although you may be relieved at the end of the year, and glad to have a break (if you are lucky enough to get one!) the process of separating is still challenging. Take care of yourself! Be sure to get plenty of sleep, and plan a few extra self-care activities to help you relax and pamper yourself. You’ve worked hard and it’s important to recognize your own accomplishments!
Share with us in the comments any suggestions you have for making the end of the school year a smooth transition!