Last week we released our report, Radically Reimagined Relationships: The Foundation of Engagement, which asserted the primary role of strong relationships in doing powerful work in schools. To extend that conversation (and because we’re at the end of May), I want to share some thoughts on how teachers can close out the year well with their students. 1) Plan a celebration: Okay, this one might seem like low-hanging fruit. Having a party at the end of the year may even feel a little cliché, but I encourage you to think about this as an opportunity to validate and celebrate your students. What activities do they particularly love? How can a class party reflect who they are and what they think is fun? One final note: Don’t leave any student out, even if they’ve been grappling with behavior issues. Think of this celebration less of being “earned” and more as an event at which you absolutely need every member of the community. It’ll send a strong message about the way in which you value every person in the room, even through struggles. 2) Hold kids accountable: I think we all have a tendency to let more things slide as the end of the year draws near. It’s understandable, but it doesn’t serve our relationships particularly well. When you hold your students to do their very best right up until the very last moment, you’re making it clear that you care about them. Don’t lower your expectations during the month of June.
3) Stay in it until the very last minute: Just like our kids sometimes want to check out, so do we. We’re human, and the finish line’s in sight. But when you start slipping, your kids notice (because they notice everything). When you come in fully prepared and clearly ready to go, you’re signaling that you still need them to do that. Holding up your end of an agreement to use this space for learning, reflecting, and growing makes it easier to do that for them. And if there’s an area where you’re going to be laxer, have a conversation with your students about it. 4) Care for the classroom, together: Classrooms are shared space, and everyone should tend to them. There are ways to make this really fun (even my tenth graders enjoyed cleaning with shaving cream on tables), but make sure to frame this well. When your intentions for the activity are clear, and you treat your students as people rather than as kids, they will be helpful in doing what they can. 5) Express gratitude: There are many ways to do this. I encourage you to think of something genuine, and sincerely thank each member of your class community for a contribution they offered (Want to see a great example of this in action? Go to page 8 of our full report, and read about what Victor Ha does under "Humility and Curiosity"!). Spend time thinking about each student, particularly ones who challenged you throughout the year. Make sure that they feel seen, heard, and valued exactly for who they are. It might be one of the most memorable moments from the entire year. What we’ve seen over the past year-and-a-half through our work is that building and holding relationships where every member of the building feels valued as a person makes for an incredible school experience. Even in the last weeks of the year, go out of your way to tend to these relationships. Your kids won’t soon forget it. Want help thinking of good closing activities that validate your students? Read the above-mentioned report by clicking here, or reach out; we’re happy to help! Images courtesy of Wix.com.