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At the End of the Year, It's All About Connection

It feels unbelievable, but the end of the school year is fast approaching. When my Kindergartener asked about something coming up on the school calendar, we took a couple of minutes to go through it together, and I was astonished at just how much was being fit in. Between testing, an art show, band and chorus concerts, moving up ceremonies, and a book fair, there was still a lot to accomplish before the end of June (and those weren’t even all of the things!).

Schools have always been ambitious places; my fear, however, is that this amount of scheduling and celebrating and hosting can get in the way of some of the most important work in a classroom—pausing the learning and closing the year in a way that makes each child feel seen, heard, and valued. There’s an argument that the flurry of events that happens in May and June aims to do just that, but, because of the pace, it can be tricky for anyone to catch a breath, much less be fully present with each other.

So how can a teacher hold both the rigorous pace of end-of-year activities alongside the desire to close the year well? Center your students’ sense of wellbeing and belonging and find ways for them to connect with each other and you.

Here are some ideas:

  • Come up with a daily ritual for the month of June, explaining that things can feel hectic just before summer starts, and you want to try and keep everyone together and ready for the work that is still happening each day. It could be as simple as 3-minutes of mindfulness or a stretching routine.

  • Ask your students to take a few deep breaths with you after each assembly or irregular time out of your routine. Give them a few moments to collect themselves, in whatever headspace they’re in, before moving on.

  • Debrief any special experiences as a way of transitioning from a different activity and giving time and space for your students to process what they just did or saw. At the end of the debrief, you can also strategically ask students to leave that moment in the past so that you can get back to whatever work needs to happen.

  • Find a way for your students to thank each other for being classmates all year. You could have students nominate others for an award or superlative, have them write brief thank you notes to one another, or have a sheet of paper with each student’s name on it where other kids can anonymously write things they’ll remember about them.

  • Similarly, you could ask students to write encouraging notes to the next group of students who will be in the class. What information do they think the incoming group would find most helpful? What were the favorite experiences that the next group could look forward to? This activity can be a great way for students to process their own year in the classroom.

  • Clean up together. It’s a simple idea, but when you ask everyone to care for the space they are sharing/have shared, it can provide a meaningful way to close out your time together.

  • Check-in with how your students are feeling, particularly if you notice a different-than-usual vibe. Students could draw an emoji of how they feel or you could have them rate how at ease they’re feeling on a scale (a fist-to-five can be a quick way to get some feedback, not necessarily about consensus, but about how they’re feeling about being ready to get back to work). You could do verbal check-ins with a couple of students a day or engage in a whole class activity. Then, you can create a plan to close out the year being mindful of the varied feelings your students are holding.

Whether you’re a teacher or a caregiver, these last weeks of school can be overwhelming. Remember that it can feel even more so for younger kids who don’t know what to expect (or any student who has a tough time with changes to the routine). Be kind with them and yourself in the chaos of the end of the year, give everyone space to express how they’re feeling, and know that prioritizing wellbeing and connection will always be a smart move.

Do you have other ways of closing out the year that you’d like to share? Comment below!


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