Finish the School Year Strong!
Finish the School Year Strong: 10 Ways to Keep Focused
The first teaching job I ever had was tough. I taught teenagers with emotional challenges. I remember, vividly, the last few weeks of the first year. We had a faculty meeting and our principal told us, “You wouldn’t walk in the last quarter mile of a marathon, so why would you slow down at the end of the school year?” That was twelve years ago, and still rings true!
The end of the year can be a tough time for youngsters and teachers alike. Summer fever sets in around Easter, testing is either right around the corner or all wrapped up, and warm temps make kids want to be outside, barefoot, and carefree!
For this article, I pooled resources by asking teacher, parents, and kids how they keep their cool in the face of coming summer!
Tips from Teachers
Tip 1- Pump it Up!
Teacher Alexa Kelly shared that her class always make a list of things to look forward to! “School smoothie day, our end-of-the-year field trip, a special guest speaker, elementary math day, our end of the year party, and finally, SUMMER!” Keeping kids pumped up about school is as important in April and May as it is in the fall. School to home translation: keep your kids pumped about the end of the year activities!
Tip 2 - Keep it Fresh!
“At my school,” reported first grade teacher Mary Hotard, “we try to change things up just enough to keep the students interested but not enough to change a well established routine/procedure. Example: we give a new menu of choices for spelling homework. Incorporating fun activities for review/practice helps keep interest up in the home stretch!” School to home translation: try different ways to help your student complete their homework or study for tests. Study outside under a shady tree or make different flashcards.
Tip 3 - Let ‘Em Run!
“Keep your weekends light and your weekday routines strong. Enjoy the gorgeous weather each day. The kids crave that outside time!” added fifth grade teacher Ashley McIlwain. School to home translation: Letting our kids run outdoors in the beautiful weather can help them decompress from busy days at school. When the weather is gorgeous, allow some outside time each afternoon.
Tip 4 - Be in it Together!
“I’m very honest with my class,” continued Kelly. “I tell them the truth—that these last nine weeks are so important, even though we’re all so tired and desperate for summer. My honesty makes them feel less ‘alone’ and makes them appreciate that we’re all in this together—even the teacher! We’ve worked hard all year and we now know more than we ever have before, so let’s get through these last nine weeks together and show off a little! School to home translation: maintain open and honest communication about how challenging this time of year can be for everyone in the home. Take turns sharing challenges and concerns.
Tip 5 - Keep a Checklist!
Finally, Kelly shared, “I also break down the curriculum for them and tell them what all is left to learn, for example: time and money, word problems, adverbs, problem/solution, etc. They get excited to ‘knock these skills off of our checklist.’ It makes our last nine weeks doable and makes these goals seem more attainable because they (and I) are able to see how realistic it is to finish strong. School to home translation: set goals that can be attained by the end of the school year. Work together to accomplish the goals and check them off the list!
Tips from Parents
Tip 6 - Keep Consistent!
“It's hard for kids to want to continue focusing on homework and studying. It's even harder for parents who are tired and have lost steam since August! But we carve out the same time for homework and reading every single day, help when necessary, stick to consequences when we see a slip, and (just as importantly) celebrate victories the same way we did toward the beginning of the year. Routine, routine, routine!” shared teacher and parent Megan Southall.
Tip 7 - Get Enough Z’s!
This tip from mom Haley Nassif can be hard to follow, but very important, “Even though the sun is out much later make sure that your kids are keeping to their bedtime routine so that they get enough sleep.”
Tip 8 - One Week at a Time!
Nassif continued, “Focus on one week at at time. By the time spring arrives, kids are excited and already dreaming of summer. By taking things one week at a time, parents can help their students keep the focus on academics. (And reminding yourself that there are only weeks left can help the parents stay motivated, too!)”
Tip 9 - Sprinkle in Some Fun!
“Keeping my kids motivated?” shared mom Pam Lewandowski, “Lots of fun stuff on the weekends to look forward to. "In four days we get to go to the children’s museum!" "Only two days left!" Plus we have some weeknight activities that help the week pass.
Tip 10 - Make it Doable!
Layla Dupuy, high school teacher, shared that focusing on how many Mondays are left is more motivating for her children than counting total number of days. “It just sounds so much more doable!”
My girls, ages five and seven, wanted me to add their tips, too! Five said that to keep kids excited, parents should pack kids a cake each day for lunch. Seven was a bit less over-the-top, but does recommend a treat or little note in the lunchbox.
Whichever tips you choose to use, remember to breathe! The end is in sight! Let’s finish the marathon strong!
Published in Baton Rouge Parents Magazine