Yes, you are worn out.
For some of you the state assessments are complete.
The kids are ready to quit.
But who said that this job was easy?
Who said the end-goal was some state assessment?
And since when do lazy students drive what we do in the classroom?
We are educators and our job is to educate. From the first day of school to the very last.
A wise pastor once said, "If you're not dead, you're not done." We got into this profession because we love kids, we want to and can make a difference, and we have knowledge that we want to share. And until we take our last breath, we won't be done with our life's mission.
There is still so much to do, but who says you have to do it the way it's always been done?
So, here are some tips to help you make it to the finish line:
- Keep teaching! That's right. You may think that you are done teaching your content, but why not dig deeper? Incorporate projects that allow students to learn more about a topic they really found interesting in your class this year. Or ask the teacher in the next grade level up what his/her students struggle with the most. Help out by pre-teaching that material or at least giving them exposure to it. Do something hands on, project based, and fun. My students absolutely love my end-of-year project. In fact, my incoming 8th graders always ask at the beginning of the year if they are going to get to do the BrainPop Project. In this project, students get to pick their own groups and they create their own BrainPop movie based on a topic they learned in science that year. They dress up like Tim and Moby, have props, and record their movies all over campus. It is meant to be an educational movie, so kids are still learning/reviewing material and at the same time learning important life skills, like how to work in a group, complete assigned tasks on time, use MovieMaker to edit and create movies, and finally present it to the class.
- Be energetic. Stay pepped up. I have found that even if you're teaching the most boring material, if YOU have energy and excitement, the kids will enjoy what they are doing. So have that morning coffee, chug that Red Bull; do whatever it takes to keep your energy up in these last few weeks.
- Don't loosen up on your expectations or rules. Trust me. If you do, you will regret it. Students still need to be held to the high standards you have expected of them all year. They still need the consistency of the routines and structure you've alwawys had. If they know that they can take an inch, they'll take a mile the next day. Be firm and consistent, even though you don't want to and it would be easier to let things slide.
- Infuse your passion into everything you do. What are you especially passionate about? Maybe there is a connection between that passion and the content area you teach. Teach your students about it. Design a lesson, project, or service project around it. Or let your students research and present something they are passionate about. All learners should find their passion and often, due to state requirements, we rob our students of their personal creativity and passion. Bring back the passion!
- Stay positive. Trust me, everyone wants to complain and count down the days, but why not count up? "I get to spend 23 more days with you guys!" It's all about your mind set. If your co-workers are dragging you down, try some random acts of kindness. Stock the fridge in your workroom, decorate the workroom with positive, motivational messages, bake some cookies to share, fill the teacher restroom with some special necessities. Doing something great for others will also make you feel great about yourself.
- Show movies (or shorter movie clips). What?!?! Did she just say that?!?! Yes, I did. But here's the catch. Make them educational. Find a way to tie it to your curriculum. I've been known to include short clips from Disney movies such as "The Lion King" to allow students to identify biotic/abiotic factors, identify producer/consumer relationships, etc. I've even used a "Finding Nemo" clip to introduce ocean currents (the East Australian Current is mentioned). I personally never show any video or movie without some sort of assessment or check for understanding. Even my quick Bill Nye videos, BrainPop videos, and StudyJams videos include either a fill-in-the-blank fact sheet to fill out while they watch or is followed with a quick quiz to make sure they were paying attention. I never show videos as time-fillers and I want my students to understand that everything I do will always have educational value and is important. I love showing movies like "The Core" or "October Sky." Documentaries like "Blackfish" inspire wonderful debates and discussions.
- Be humorous. By this time, your students know you. You've spent practically everyday with them for the past 8-9 months. Humor goes a long way. If you haven't already, let them see your humorous side. Be silly. As teachers, one of the many roles we fulfill is entertainer. Everyday you stand up in front of a group of teenagers and are expected to captivate their attention for at least 30 minutes. If your students never know what to expect from you and are constantly wondering what crazy, off-the-wall thing you're going to do next, I promise you will have their attention. I never have students sleep in my class - who would want to miss the show!?
- Change it up. Four years ago, after attending the NSTA Conference and tasting my first delicious bite of cricket, I created a Cricket Crunch Club. I wait to do this until after our STAAR testing is complete. I order a bunch of crickets, cook them up, and let my students (who are brave enough to try) eat a cricket. I take a picture of each student and staff member who completes the challenge and I put them all on a posterboard that is prminently displayed in my classroom. I'm shocked every year at how many people actually eat one. Peer pressure and a unique opportunity like this, make it irresistable, I guess. And it doesn't hurt that I bake up some crazy-good crickets. ☺
- Have your students critique you. I get some of the most valuable feedback about my class and myself, as a teacher, when I have my students fill out an end-of-the-year questionnaire. I want to know how my students perceive me, how challenging they thought my class was, what their most/least favorite activity was, what advice they would give to my new students next year. You can't ever become stagnant and it's so important to listen and reflect on the honest feedback you get from your students. If you don't want to read it now, save it for a day this summer. It could be some great reading by the pool or at the beach.