Finish the School Year Strong

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 12 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.

With the help of teachers, parents, and kiddos, we have compiled a list of tips on how to keep cool in the face of the coming summer.

Tips from Teachers

  1. Pump it Up. Teacher Alexa Kelly shares that her class always makes 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 make the list,” she explains. Keeping kids pumped up about school is as important in May as it is in the fall. School to home translation: keep your kids pumped about the end of the year activities.
  2. Keep it Fresh. “At my school,” reports 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. For 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.
  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!” adds 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.
  4. Be in it Together. “I’m very honest with my class,” continues 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.
  5. Keep a Checklist. Finally, Kelly shares, “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

  1. 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 been losing 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!” encourages teacher and parent Megan Southall.
  2. Get Enough Zs. While this tip from mom Haley Nassif may be hard to follow, it’s very important. She explains, “Even though the sun is out much later, make sure that your kids are keeping to their bedtime routines so that they get enough sleep.”
  3. One Week at a Time. “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!),” notes Nassif.
  4. Sprinkle in Some Fun. “Keeping my kids motivated?” shares mom Pam Lewandowski, “Lots of fun on the weekends to look forward to. For instance, ‘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.”
  5. Make it Doable. Layla Dupuy, a local high school teacher, shares that focusing on how many Mondays are left is more motivating for her children than counting the total number of days. “It just sounds so much more doable,” she shares.

Fun Bonus Tips

My five-year-old daughter says that in order to keep kids excited about school, parents should pack kids a cake each day for lunch. However, my seven-year-old daughter recommends 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! ■

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01 May 2018

By Jannean Dixon

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