Posted in general education, homeschool, more seeds, reflection, special education

The Ritual of Ending the School Year

The End of the School Year is Here!

Well, it’s finally here – that long-awaited, simultaneously longed-for and dreaded, end of the school year.

If you’re like many students and educators, you already know the exact number of “go-to-bed-and-get-ups” until school’s out for the summer. I can even hear Alice Cooper singing right about now.

When it’s the end of the year, I always feel a bunch of things, all at the same time. I’m glad for the end of that downward spiral of behavior that seems to happen when the days get longer and the nights get warmer. I’m relieved that there will soon be no more Friday notes and PPT reports to prepare, no more testing, no more fights with the copier at the 11th hour, at least for a couple of months. I’m anxious for the well-being of my students, especially the ones who don’t do change very well. The end of the year also brings that renewed excitement as I begin to think about what was, what could have been, and what I hope for in the coming year.

For me, there’s a ritual feeling to the end of the school year. How about for you?

Time to (Re)Move Stuff

In the past year, I’ve moved a lot of things into a lot of places: my old school closed and I helped move its contents to another building; I moved my teaching materials into an empty room in my new school; I moved from the home we’ve lived in for the past fourteen years and into a house in another city. These moves taught me that people (errr… that would be me) keep too much stuff! 

One of my end of the year tasks now is throwing away stuff that I don’t need. If you need to clear the clutter, too, here three places to start:

  1. “File copies” of handouts ~ Don’t keep something if you can find it somewhere else. If you have the workbook, you can make more copies – IF you need them.
  2. Dog-eared novels ~ Make a springtime ritual out of giving away “well-loved” books to your students at the end of the year.
  3. Old textbooks ~ Just because you have a class set of textbooks doesn’t mean you should keep them. Pitch them or find a buy-back or donation program.
end of the year organization
The end of the year is a perfect time to get rid of what you don’t want, and organize what you want to keep. Image credit (c) 2015. Kim M. Bennett

Once I clear the clutter, it’s time to organize what I have left. The company I work for uses Toyota’s 5S process, where items are organized and the space they occupy is labeled. I used the peel-and-stick labels that you use to make tabs in notebooks. Labeling this way looks attractive, helps students be more independent, and encourages me to put things back where they belong (instead of on the windowsill behind my desk) at the end of the school day.

I also take time at the end of the year to move my base of operation back home. Things that I need to plan for the fall, summer school materials, and personal items that moved to school with me in August start to go home with me, a little each day, through the month of June.

Organizing My Thoughts

I find that April and May are my most creative planning months. I’m still in the thick of teaching, and writing new goals and objectives for my students. What they need is fresh in my mind, and I have ideas for how to meet their needs. If I wait until August, I have to remind myself what happened the year before.  The end of the year is the best time for me to start planning for next year!

I like to reflect on the year – what worked, what didn’t work… what I should begin doing, continue doing or stop doing. Sometimes I write these ideas down – I need to get better at that.

At the end of the year, I start to identify resources I want to use next year, and organize them using the 5S process. Image credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2018

While this is all fresh in my mind, I begin some long-range planning.

  • First, I choose the textbook(s) that I will use;
  • Next, I pace the textbook out for the school year;
  • Then, I determine the pages that I need to cover each day to complete the text.

Granted, things come up. But, if I do this long-range planning at the end of the year, it makes it easier for me to do my weekly and daily planning when I return in the fall.

I work in a self-contained special education room, in an alternative school setting, under the oversight of a large hospital system. We have a lot of tasks to do. I’m sure you do, too. My colleagues and I are taking some time at the end of the year to create a month-by-month schedule of tasks so that we can schedule classroom, school and corporate activities into our planning in the fall.

Restoring Balance

Teaching is hard work, especially if you are working with students with significant challenges and learning needs. It is easy to put yourself on a back burner for the sake of the students. At the end of the year, I need to actively put myself back into the equation, and restore balance in my life.

I love to garden, and usually start to work outside a little each day as soon as the weather permits. The flow of this spring activity helps me to slowly shift my focus from school life to family, home and self.

It also helps me to refill my empty cup.  We all need seasons of refreshing. For me, I’m currently finding joy and peace in my home and kitchen:

  • I revived my Amish friendship bread starter and am baking bread once or twice a week;
  • I like to brew my own kombucha – my most recent batch was a tasty dandelion and fennel brew;
  • I have a trip to the garden center planned, to pick out vegetables for the kitchen garden that I am planning for our new home.
end of the year kombucha
At the end of the school year, it’s time to revive hobbies that bring us joy. Image credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2019

I recently reconnected with the Women’s Ministry at my church. One of our tasks for the month was to keep a gratitude journal. Writing down what I am grateful for in the morning, then again in the evening, reminds me that there I am blessed in so many ways, even on the most frustrating of days. Even at the end of the school year when the kids slowly come unraveled.

Some Final Thoughts…

Ending things is hard. I find it easier at the end of the year if I leave on the last day with a short bucket list of things I want to do over the summer. Here are a few from mine:

  1. Build a book room at school with my colleagues.
  2. Start a kitchen garden in my front yard.
  3. Finish cleaning out my old house.
  4. Catch up on medical appointments.
  5. Read and write daily.

How Do You End the School Year?

What are your “end of the year” rituals? Share with us in the comments, below.


Mom of four, Nana to seven, homeschooler, special educator, and lover of all good things... striving to do His work every day.

2 thoughts on “The Ritual of Ending the School Year

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