Monday, April 20, 2015

10 ways to finish the school year strong

1). Make the word 'intentional' your new favorite word. Be precise and be focused on how you use this time. There are a lot of things happening at school during the last few weeks, so keep the focus on doing a few things really well rather than trying to simply 'cover' a lot of things to finish out the year.

2). Try something new you've never done before. Your evaluation is most likely done and you probably have a job for next year. Your kids have also seen all the plays you have to offer in your playbook. So, now is the perfect time to take a risk and do something you've never done before. Perhaps it's something you've read about... heard about... or simply thought about... now is the time!

3). Focus on maximizing this time and amplifying the learning opportunities your students have engaged in so far this school year. You've by now built a solid learning and experience foundation with your students the last 7 or 8 months. Now is the time to take something and build upon it and take it to the next level. Perhaps you simply didn't get to go as far or as deep as you originally wanted, so take advantage of this time and take that 'good' to 'great.'

4). Allow your students to really take the lead and take charge of their learning. You've most likely been the conductor of many of the learning experiences so far this school year. Take a seat in the caboose and allow your students to take the lead and allow them to explore, discover, expand upon, or simply build upon something they are interested in learning more about. Allow their natural curiosity to be the intrinsic motivator they need to finish the year strong.

5). Spend a little extra time to get to know those students with whom you just haven't been able to connect. You've got a lot of students, and just like all our relationships, sometimes some grow more quickly than others. Specifically target and engage a few students with whom you haven't been able to develop a strong rapport. Learn more about these students and focus on asking good questions and listening to what they have to say. It's these most recent interactions that could make all the difference.

6). Connect your classroom or an activity you are doing to the global world that surrounds us all. The world continues to get smaller and more connected. Use these last few weeks to help your students understand and appreciate the connectedness we all share. Whether it is doing a Google Hangout or Skype session with an expert in the field or another group of students, now is the perfect time to show that we may be thousands of miles apart, but what happens in one part of the world affects and impacts what happens in other parts of the world.

7). Start getting excited for next year by searching out your 'next big' thing. Sure, this year isn't over yet, therefore don't shut that door just yet. But, there's nothing wrong with looking ahead toward the future. Think about that new approach or that new activity you want to do next year. Start building up that excitement and anticipation for how it might look or the resources you might need. Keep one eye on the present and one eye toward the future.

8). Fresh air and physical activity benefit us all... figure out a way to include them in your classroom activities. Go outside since the weather is most likely more accommodating and while you're out there get your students moving. There is a ton of research that supports movement and different landscapes/learning environments. This time of the year is perfect for both... bonus, figure out a way to use the outside as a learning precursor to something else to make the learning more connected and relevant.

9). Disengage to stay engaged... taking care of yourself. This time of year it's especially important to take time to take care of yourself. Don't be afraid to take an evening off and/or enjoy the weekend without thinking about or doing any school related work. Take the necessary time to enjoy your family and make an effort to disengage your brain from work. It's this personal disengagement that will keep you fresh to keep what happens in the classroom completely engaged.

10). Keep it together... remember, we can expect to get what we expect. Don't take off the last few weeks of school. Don't turn on cruise control and coast your way through the end of the year. There will be plenty of temptation (both students AND your colleagues), but don't take the bait. Keep your expectations both high and realistic, and recognize that finishing strong is just as important as starting strong.

What other suggestions would you add as a way to finish the school year strong?