At this time of the year there is often a dilemma between the end of one year and the start of the next year. You can feel like you just want this year to be finished so that you can get started on all the new stuff. Your head can be in two different places as you try to finish off the old and get ready for the new.
In this post I am going to outline six simple strategies to help you navigate through this tricky time and stay clear and focused on what you need to get done.
You possibly have a long list of things to do over the next few weeks. My suggestion is to be very clear about which tasks are for this year and which are preparation for the following year. This helps you to keep clear boundaries in your head.
One strategy to enable you separate the lists is to head up two pieces of paper, or use two pages in a journal or your planning folder with this year's date on one and next year on the other. As you think of things to do write each task on the corresponding page. This simple change makes it easier to keep your mind organised.
To take this a step further, you can divide the lists into 3 parts
1. What needs to be done right now?
2. What needs to be done soon? (within the next couple of weeks)
3. What needs to be noted down, but can be left until later?
For a printable PDF of these lists click here
All of a sudden your long to-do lists seem more manageable because you only really have to focus on what needs to be done right now, however you can be confident that the other important items are written down and won’t be forgotten.
Even though we are very busy at this time of the year I think that spending time transitioning your students into the next year is very important. As school winds down, it can be hard for many students to leave their teachers and friends behind during the holidays. They are used to the routine, and change does not come easily for some. Even though your students are probably looking forward to the summer holiday, losing contact with people they have seen nearly every day can be difficult for students. Closure provides everyone with a chance to say goodbye and remember the past year and move on to the next year.
Supporting your students into this next stage of their schooling lives is your last job as their teacher, and you can help to ensure the transition is a positive experience and goes as smoothly as possible. This is particularly true if your students have a major transition year such as moving from kindergarten to school, or from primary school to intermediate or high school.
I have written another post with ideas you can use to help students transition smoothly.
To read it click here.
Packing up your classroom at the end of the year can feel daunting, but even more so if you are moving classroom and need to leave the room clean and tidy for the next teacher coming in.
Create a simple plan with days and times you can devote to packing, put it on the wall and try to stick to it. Leaving packing until the last minute will probably mean that you just throw stuff in boxes and have a horrible mess to sort out later, and that is not the way you want to start the new year. Creating your own packing system, and having boxes or bags labelled and ready, will help you to keep track.
Another tip is to start packing up equipment and games that you don’t use regularly. There will be students in your class who love tidying and sorting, so get them to help you. Check that each resource has all the correct pieces and/or cards. Replace or mend the box or bag that is holding it if needed. Then put it away in a big box or on a high shelf ready for next year. Obviously you can’t do this with all your resources as you will still be using some, but starting the packing process early gives you a sense of being in control, and makes your shelves look tidier as there is less stuff on them.
Many teachers, myself included, can be great hoarders. We think “Ooh that might come in useful one day, I’ll just keep it in this box/bag/drawer/shelf...” and before we know it our classroom is full of bits and pieces that we don’t really need.
When you are sorting out at the end of the year it is a good idea to be a bit more ruthless and throw away anything you haven’t used for more than a year. If it was useful, you would have used it right? All the extra stuff just needs sorting and resorting and resorting, what a waste of time.
You might be able to give it to another teacher who will use it, but don’t just leave it in the room for the next teacher coming in, thinking they might use it. All you are actually doing is leaving them your old, unwanted junk. I’m talking about things like the 300 bottle tops in a big jar that you have had for years, but never actually used. Or the jigsaw with ten missing pieces that you think you might find one day and actually never have.
As well as reflecting with your students, give yourself time to reflect on the past year.
Give yourself time to reflect. It's critical that you see how you changed, where you have grown, and what you learned. You will have grown, no matter what stage you are at in your career. The biggest mistake we make is not taking the time to recognize and acknowledge that. Make an appointment with yourself for a reflection time, because it is that important. Put it in your diary.
It is also important to keep note of any professional development you have done over the year and keep a log. This can be useful for appraisal or writing your CV. We think we will remember everything we have done, but it is amazing how quickly we forget when we are immersed in busy school life and constantly moving to the next new thing.
Spend a few moments and list all the professional development you have completed – conferences, staff meeting PD, visiting facilitators, visits to other schools, professional reading, observations etc. Note down the date, what you did and how your practice changed as a result of feedback you received or new learning. Just bullet point a couple of notes for each event as a memory jogger. Doing this activity with two or three colleagues in a brainstorming session over coffee is a good idea – you will be surprised at what you had forgotten you did this year.
Finally, but I think most important of all, is to look after yourself. I know you know this, but I’m going to remind you anyway! At this time of year you are probably having more late nights than usual as you write reports, finish assessments, attend school concerts or end of year events.
Keep an eye on your energy levels and try to get an early night when you can. Even though you are busy make time for breakfast and lunch. The weather is getting warmer so remember to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
Stay focused on the basics of self care so that you can enjoy your holiday, instead of using it to recover!
I hope you found these steps useful. I’d love to hear your ideas on strategies you have for ending the year well.