Keeping the Kids on Track: Tips for Teachers in the Final Weeks of School

The end is closer than it was last week and I am slowly, slowly, drowning in a pile of paperwork!  My last post was an edited version of the newsletter article that I submitted for publication.  That little piece sparked this little 3 part series and unfortunately, I feel much more overwhelmed than last week and fear my writing will suffer.  Please bear with me on this one.  I am feeling under the pump!screen bean sinking papers

Any teacher will tell you that the final weeks of the school year are frantic.  While the countdown has well and truly begun, the classroom continues to run at full speed.  While teaching and learning continue to roll on, a long list of ‘wrap up’ tasks land on the teacher desk and seems to only get longer.  The teacher calendar can include any of the following tasks or events:

  • School based assessments and reportingcalendar clipart
  • Standardised testing
  • Data analysis and collation
  • Curriculum Planning Meetings (and homework)
  • Class celebrations
  • School Open Days/ Enrolment afternoons
  • School Christmas Celebrations (Christmas concert, Fun night, Carnival)
  • Extra-curricula planning, activities, and break-ups
  • Returning all borrowed Library Resources
  • Trying to find the borrowed Library Resources
  • Classroom Cleanup – students taking home portfolios and personal items
  • Classroom Cleanup – rearranging furniture
  • Teaching Team Reflections
  • Parent/ Teacher Conferences
  • Behaviour Management follow-up
  • Creation and Maintenance of Resources
  • Mentoring and Pre-Service Teacher Reports
  • References for students and colleagues
  • Timetabling for the next year
  • Organising thank you gifts for classroom volunteers and support staff
  • Organising student gifts
  • Continuing Professional Development (and official recording of this
  • Proof of Reflective Practice (handed in to the principal).
  • Strategic Planning for next year (class lists, programs running, budgets, PD activities, events for the calendar, resource purchasing and creation).

When all of that is going on, the teacher is tired, the weather is hot and the kids are getting ready for their Summer break, it is difficult for teachers to retain their focus.  When this difficulty arises, here are few tips to keep you sane.

How Do You Keep The Kids On Track? 3 TIPS FOR TEACHERS

STICK TO THE SCHEDULE

lesson plan clipartYou might be thinking I have said this before and I have.  If the parents need to keep the routine rolling at home, you need to do the same.  There will be things happening in these final days that will interrupt the normal flow of events.  But, as much as possible, you should keep things as they are.  Keep the seating plan in tact including the location of furniture in the room.  If you do Literacy in the morning, then do the English Exam/ assessment task in the morning.  Pay extra attention to transitions and other classroom procedures.  If you usually set homework, then keep setting homework.  If you usually expect students to read silently when they come in from lunch, then continue to have this expectation and enforce it.  The moment you “relax” or “let it slide” because the end is near, the kids will sense that you have begun to check out and they will too.

KEEP IN TOUCH

talkingThere I go repeating myself again.  But this follows on from the paragraph above.  If you contact parents regularly for various reasons (we can call home to say something positive too you know), then keep it up.  Send home a calendar with the important events that will be happening at school and emphasise to the students and parents that every day counts.  Find out if students are going to have a planned absence and plan accordingly.  This is much easier said than done, I know.  However, if every student is at school everyday, you won’t have to organise catch up assessments or chase up extra homework tasks.  Just as you are ensuring all the activity at school is on track and important, ensure your students and their parents know it.

LOOK AFTER YOURSELFbubble bath

There will be a long list of things to do.  You have seen the one above.  This will be even longer if you are moving classrooms or schools at the end of the year.  Stress and related illnesses are common among teachers at this time of year and this is especially true for those new to the profession.  Schedule some time for yourself- that means something you enjoy doing, not something you think you have to enjoy doing.  If you like coffee with friends, that’s good, plan to do that regularly.  If you would prefer to curl up with a book, visit your Nana or play with the cat, then plan one of those activities.  Saying “NO” is not a crime and if you are feeling too overwhelmed to go out or clean the house then let it slide. checklist funny

Another important part of looking after yourself is being realistic.  You can’t do it all!  Don’t kill yourself trying! Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then put them in order based on when they need to be done.  For example, last week I really wanted to work on some lesson planning, but I needed to have my newsletter article completed so I did that first.  This week I wanted to work on the assessment items for my class but the agenda for a team meeting was more urgent.  I still did my lesson planning and worked on assessment items for my class.  I just made sure that I got the other things done first.  I also took a few things off my list that can simply wait until the holidays, or even next year.  For example, I would like to have all the task cards printed and laminated for the first week of school activities with my new classes.  But, that might have to be a job for my holidays.

I know I said 3 tips… but this one is really important! 

ASK FOR HELP

Being realistic is important, and saying “NO” is necessary: Asking for HELP is vital to your survival in the last weeks.  Ask your students to help with finding resources and tidying the classroom.  Kids on detention can do all sorts of little jobs: sorting books, returning resources, sharpening pencils, filing papers, cleaning out cupboards, packing resources and taking down displays.

help wanted postits

Teacher Aides, while busy too, are there to help, don’t be afraid to ask for help with resource creation, filing, typing, packing and organising (most TA’s love re-arranging and sorting items into logical systems).  Talk to your colleagues about sharing supervision in order to give each other a bit of time to get some work done.  Ask your colleagues how they manage paperwork and reporting.  Share the load with them: you design and mark the comprehension tests and they design and mark the maths tests.  Get together and work on reporting comments and lesson planning.  If you are struggling, inform your principal or immediate supervisor and ask for any assistance that is available.  They might be able to pay back the non-contact time that is owed or they might be able to extend a deadline for you.  The work won’t go away but you can get help to manage it.

Ask the Family and Friends.  If the house needs cleaning, ask your partner/ housemate/ kids to pitch in and maybe even pick up some of the slack while you are in “COUNT DOWN MODE”  and assure them that you will owe them one when the holidays start.  Accept that it’s okay to have take away for dinner if cooking is too hard and let go of the idea that the bed has to be made every morning (or insert other arbitrary household activity like drying the dishes).

That’s it from me!  Now I have to go pet my cat for 10 minutes before I jump right in to some marking; after which I will be writing thank you notes for the LN Team at my school.  I have revision booklets to create for my class before throwing myself into the LN Program Planning for next year.  I can’t wait to go shopping with my Best Friend tomorrow!  Good thing I’m taking care of myself!

Hang in There Everyone!

mel lit coach signature

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2 thoughts on “Keeping the Kids on Track: Tips for Teachers in the Final Weeks of School

  1. Great post Mel – all really important things to remember. I have struggled with the “Stick to the Schedule” part…we have had swimming lessons in the middle of the day every day for the last two weeks which has shaken things up a bit. I’m looking forward to getting back on track for these last couple of weeks.

    Sami

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  2. Thanks Sami,
    I remember the swimming lessons! It was so disruptive!! I knew it was an important part of the curriculum, but there were times when I was so over it. When swimming is on the schedule it seems to take over the whole day! You have to load the kids on a bus and travel as well. That was the worst! It turns an average day into an exhausting one. I don’t miss that part of Primary School Teaching at all. Anyway, I have loads to do. Hang in there.
    🙂 Mel

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