My students finished up classes last Friday, and are now in the process of take their finals and saying farewell!
I’m SO looking forward to summer, but I always dread the end of the school year a bit. Firstly, I like my job, and I miss my kiddos over the summers! Secondly, the end of the year is incredibly hectic. I’m a special education teacher, so many of my students require specialized supports and accommodations while completing final exams and projects. Also, tons of Individualized Educational Plans (the thick, wordy document that each child with specialized learning needs has, outlining his or her specific disability and explaining what teachers need to do to ensure their success) get revised and re-written this time of year.
So, for all you teachers out there- especially special education teachers- here’s what I’ve learned we all need to do before the end of the year to make sure this summer and next fall go smoothly.
- DREDGE THE BACKPACKS FOR ALL OUTSTANDING WORK: About 2 weeks before the last day of school, schedule a “penalty free” day in class when all of your students sort through the years worth of junk in their backpack to find any outstanding work they need to pass in. Give them this ONE last opportunity to pass in work; other wise they’ll be running 2-month-old homework worksheets up to your desk until the final bell rings.
- DREDGE YOUR OWN DESK FOR ALL IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS: This is especially important for special education teachers! I keep “spare parts” files for each of my caseload students at my desk, and I sort all of their work, documents, parent communication, ect. in there throughout the year. It keeps me organized, but certain forms need to be in the central office files, and other in the special education central files. During the last week of every school year (usually while I’m bored, proctoring small group final exams…sorry I’m not sorry…) I go through all the paperwork I have in my desk files and update each student’s central file.
- THROW OUT ALL BROKEN/UNNECESSARY MATERIALS: Beware of the teacher clutter, people. If your co-worker gave you a 20-year-old workbook in October and you haven’t touched it by June, it’s time to throw that think in the recycling bin. Also toss the class set of discount store magic markers that never quite worked right, and the pens that only seem to have ink 5% of the time.
- SAY THANK YOU: do something cute to show your teacher friends that you care about them. Your co-workers are your rock; make sure to show them some love!
- REFLECT AND WRITE (even the small stuff): Often times supervisors require you to write up some kind of cushy reflection on the year. That’s not what I mean by this. Well, not entirely; definitely take a moment to reflect on student growth, and jot down some of the steps you took to help those kiddos be their best selves. But I’m more talking about the nitty-gritty. Think about what went well on a daily basis, and make a note of it. “second floor bathroom is the best,” for example, or “History Department copy machine always jams.” Just jot down all the dumb little things you might forget over the summer.
- KEEP A TO-DO LIST: the principal and your department head are going to send you 279248723 emails with little tasks and chores you need to do before you can escape for the summer. Even if you’re not a list maker (you crazies) make a list for these end of year tasks! Keep track of everything so you can walk out that door and onto a beach ASAP!
- CELEBRATE WITH STUDENTS: Say goodbye to your students in style:) Have a little party, bring in some snacks, give them little gifts. I’m actually not hugely into the party thing, but I do like to give them some candy and tell them how proud I am of them until they’re all super smiley-embarassed.
- CHECK OUT WITH PARENTS: Also especially applicable for special education teachers; shoot out a quick email to all the parents you’ve been working with all year. Often times you’ve been talking to your student’s parents more than your own, so it’s often nice to have some closure. If possible, you can pass on some contact information for the student’s new teacher or case manager. If that’s not a thing, just say goodbye and have a nice summer!
- STRUCTURE YOUR SUMMER: Nobody becomes a teacher because they don’t like control. So having days on days of totally un-structured time is actually really harsh on the regimented teacher’s soul. I spend three weeks working at a summer camp each year, and the rest chilling out, spending time with my family. I like to structure even those chilled-out summer days some workout classes, lunches with friends, writing projects and some daily routines that are both healthy and helpful. I even like to write all my plans down in my iCal to make myself feel like I have a purpose and a plan.
- RELAX: All the little tasks will get done. They will. I swear. Just stay calm and plow through.
Happy Almost Summer!