I can speak from personal experience how chaotic those final days of school are. Students know that real classwork is over, and teachers are left feeling more like babysitters than educators. You are expected to keep your classroom entertained and tackle a long list of “to-dos” before you can go on your summer break. The final days are a sprint and can seem like some of the most stressful. Take a deep breath. You can make it! Here are some tips for deconstructing your classroom at the end of a school year for the ages.
Keep A Routine
Your students thrive on having a schedule. In fact, I think it’s the number one step for success in the final weeks of school. While the things in your daily routine look different than a typical school day, I always found it essential to lay it out for your students. Writing the time slots for end-of-year activities helped me stay on track and served as a reminder for the inevitable activities around campus. I would even give students little hints on the fun to come throughout the day.
Toss and Recycle
Teachers can be notorious packrats. When resources can sometimes feel so limited, it’s a considerable risk to throw something away. What if I need it next year? What if I need it five years from now? Turn that little voice inside your head off and take a hard look at the classroom materials taking up space. Anything that is in serious disrepair is a non-starter. Send it to the trash. If it literally has a layer of dust, it’s probably time to get rid of it. If you’re still carrying around workbooks from a grade you haven’t taught in years, toss it into the recycling bin. You may end up throwing away your body weight in papers and books, but you will come out with a cleaner, more organized classroom.
In that same light, you may have a collection of prizes and gifts in perfect condition but have no room in your cleaned space. Instead of simply sending those to the trash, consider passing them along to your students. I had extra copies of books, posters, and pens that my students loved. Reward your students by holding a raffle for those extra materials. Because I had dozens of prizes, everyone left the school year with something to bring home. No one was left out! Other “big-ticket” items with the students were sticker packs and journals I had, at some point, grabbed from the Dollar Store.
As the saying goes, “many hands make for light work.” In your classroom, you have a team of students who are probably more than happy to help you clean up the classroom. You typically know who to trust with what task. You need to keep an eye on some students, but they can help wipe down tables and chairs. Other students are more responsible and can handle running errands for you around the school. You can’t be in more than one place, although I’m sure you’ve tried. This is a simple way to knock out the more straightforward tasks while you finish up on grades and progress folders.
Don’t forget the fun! After a long, tiring school year, it’s time to reward your students for their hard work and perseverance. There is a wide range of options, which ultimately comes down to how much you are comfortable spending. Whatever you choose will be greatly appreciated by your students and will be the talk of the town. They’ll be bragging about how incredible their teacher is! Some popular ideas are popcorn and a movie, a pizza party in the classroom, or a Rice Krispie decorating station. Also, never underestimate the power of free time with your students.
Once the final bell has rung and your students are gone for the summer, be sure to give credit to the most important person in the classroom… YOU! You did such an incredible job in a year that was chaotic, unpredictable, and downright exhausting. Recognize all of your hard work and accomplishments. Rest up and get ready for a brand new, fresh start this Fall!