The days are both dragging along and speeding by. I’m increasingly tired and maybe a little more sharp-tongued than usual. I feel like I’m limping—or maybe even crawling—to the finish line. My desk is stacked high with papers that I don’t have the energy to file, and my stamina is on a decline. It’s that time of year a teacher both loves and dreads: The last month of school. The end of the line.
How do we, my fellow teaching companions, get through this difficult time when our students forget the rules and procedures we spent nine months teaching them? Here are some strategies that may help us more fully enjoy (or, at the very least, survive!) these last few weeks:
- Focus on self-care: When my to-do list seems endless and I’m overwhelmed, I try to hunker down and take care of myself outside of school. If the weather is nice, I get outside and walk, run, or play. I read or do yoga. Sometimes I just sit on the couch and enjoy my kids, or even stop and watch a TV show. It sounds counter-intuitive since my home and work duties continue to multiply, but when I take time for myself, I end up having more energy to check items off my to-do list.
- Think about individual students and how far they’ve come: My own school is a small preschool through fourth grade building. By the time kids have reached the fourth grade, I know them well—some of them since preschool. The fourth graders are always a challenge. They’re ready to step into middle school, but still so naive in many ways. When I’m struggling with these kids, I look back to when they were kindergartners. I think about how far they’ve come, what they’ve learned, how they’ve changed, and I smile. I remind myself what I’ll miss about them next year, and these memories help me have a little more patience.
- Reflect on new activities I have implemented this year: I try to remember things I’ve accomplished in the classroom. This year, I tried to focus on adding more STEAM activities to my library class. I tried this with almost all of my classes, and these activities were fun and engaging. I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my box and embracing something new. I also tried to add a more detailed research project for my younger students. These two things alone make me proud of my teaching accomplishments this year—and thinking about these new activities helps me push through to the end, so I can start thinking and planning for next year.
- Recall humorous moments: If you don’t have a sense of humor, you can’t survive teaching. So, I try to laugh when a kid says, “Mrs. Baier, how old are you? I bet you’re older than my grandma.” Here are some funny comments my teaching friends shared with me. I hope these make you laugh and stick with you through these last few weeks, when we so badly need a sense of humor:
• A student told their kindergarten teacher he needed to tell her a secret, so they stepped out in the hallway and he told her that she smelled like spicy nachos.
• Told to a second-grade teacher: “My intestine is clogged."
• A preschool student said, “Can you put my elbow back in my hair?”
• Another student said to a friend of mine, “Did you know I was born on the same day as my birthday?!”
• Or, as the first graders say to me, “Mrs. Baier, can I talk to you in privacy?”
It’s okay to laugh—it lightens the moment and helps keep us sane!
- Accept the fact that the last few weeks of school will require all of your attention—and be okay with that: Around mid-April, I start telling my family, friends, neighbors, and whoever else will listen that the end of school is near. I remind people that April and May are my busy months, so please understand if I am a mess. Then I plan to hunker down and work late, and I do my best just to push through. Thankfully, the people I know and love tolerate me and offer to take me out for coffee once school is done for the year.
Teaching friends, the end is near. Hang in there, take care of yourself, laugh, and persist. Soon enough, you’ll be throwing your papers in the air and sprinting to your car to enjoy the summer fun and sweet, sweet rest. Have a wonderful, restful break!
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