It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. There is a certain indescribable sense of overwhelming excitement when you’re about to mix up the routine in some way. As summer break approaches, students all over the country are fighting a constant battle with this excitement. For most of them, the next several weeks hold endless opportunity for all sorts of fun and hijinks.
And it’s up to teachers, who also have summer break to look forward to, to stay focused and finish the year strong. While research suggests a lack of support for the theory that the average student has a shorter attention span than it takes most people to run a mile, the end-of-year struggle is real.
So how can you make the most of a tough situation? How do you make the last 180 days of hard work and dedication stick? Embrace it by using these strategies to stay on track:
1) Stay Positive.
In a study conducted by Stage of Life, 98.6 percent of students reported that a teacher positively impacted them. Be that teacher. It may not be easy. It may feel like you’ve reached the end of your rapidly fraying rope. How you perceive the days ahead will impact how you feel, so make a decision now to stay optimistic. More importantly, there is a correlation between a teacher’s mindset and student outcomes. In a recent study conducted through Northern Illinois University, research supports the power of positive thinking in teachers. It might help to network with other teachers at the school to build each other up, or to have a belief statement you repeat to yourself throughout the day. Do what works best for you.
2) Plan Ahead.
In a way, your classroom is your business and you are the entrepreneur. The daily grind is important and routine is key. Yet each day should always fall into place with the overall plan for the year. Having a plan can double your success in business, so why not put that into practice in the classroom? Understanding at the start of the year that the end may be a challenge, plan for it early. Outlining a vision, setting goals and putting together a game plan are steps you can take on a daily basis to execute your plan.
3) Be Flexible.
So things don’t quite go according to plan? At least you had one, and can get back on track. From cancelled classes to distractions to students leaving early for various sports and activities, things happen that are outside of your control. Instead of letting it completely derail everything you need to accomplish in the curriculum, understand going in that things may need to adapt. Having plans B, C and sometimes even F will help you stay sane and organized when things happen you can’t control.
4) Have Fun.
It doesn’t have to happen every day, but if students are determined to mix things up, embrace it by finding ways to integrate new things into your everyday routine. It may be challenging to do with high-stakes tests on the horizon, but adding a fun activity to a lesson can enhance the learning experience for students and leave a lasting impression. Try taking class outside if you can or use a new app that can engage students with the technology they thrive on.
5) Do Something for You.
Whoever said a happy worker is a productive worker had a special seat in the front row of any classroom. The Washington Post reports the average teacher works about 53 hours per week. Finding ways to integrate balance into your life will help you be a more productive, and ultimately a happier, teacher. Book a trip yourself to celebrate the end of the year, but also find some time for yourself each day to do something you love.
6) Remember Your “Why.”
Most teachers agree that teaching is more than a profession. It’s how they make a difference in the world. Something simple unites us all: a vision. Everyone who dreams of being a teacher has a special spark in their soul to remind them it’s possible. To remind them that dreams are meant to be achieved. But commitment and dedication also come into play, so it is that much more important for you to remember your why. Why did you want to become a teacher in the first place? What were your goals? Focus on that, build a foundation on it, and find ways to bring it with you to the classroom each day.
7) Keep it Simple.
When all else fails, focus on the basics. One of the best things you can do as school comes to a close is to keep it simple and prioritize what’s most important to teach and reinforce each day. Distractions are inevitable in varying forms, so eat the frog first. Do the hardest and most challenging thing early in the day when everyone is fresh and engaged and do the best with what you can as the day progresses.
The most significant challenges teachers face are constantly changing demands. In an ever-changing educational realm, challenge comes with the territory.
And year-end is no different because ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’re a first-grader whose idea of a perfect summer is hours and hours climbing on playground equipment or a high-schooler who can’t wait to escape the house with your friends for hours on end each day.
Attention spans will wane as the year draws to a close. Classes will get cancelled. Students will miss school for any number of reasons. When it comes to year-end, the struggle is definitely real.
Fortunately, most teachers say the rewards of teaching far outweigh the challenges they face. Even the misery of year-end shall pass.
And when it does, we get a beloved and well-deserved break before we take a deep breath and start it all over again.
Have other tips for making it through the final days of the school year? Share in the comments!