End Your School Year with What Matters Most

Beginnings and endings are important. They’re memorable. They stick out to us.

Star Wars: A New Hope opens with an attack on Princess Leia’s starship, and it ends with the Death Star exploding.

Ocean’s 11 starts out with Danny Ocean getting out of jail, and it concludes with him heading to jail (and then getting out again).

The Great Gatsby begins with his arrival on West Egg and ends with Gatsby’s death.

Beginnings set the tone, but endings don’t just come together on accident. There’s something special about a narrative that ends really well.

That’s why concerts end with an encore.

That’s why we remember sports seasons that end with championships (Go Astros!).

What does that mean for us in education? We invest a lot of time thinking through how to begin the school year, but we invest comparatively little in discussing how to end the year well. I wrote about starting the year well in August and asked us to think about what students will remember about us and our time together. I challenged educators to start the year by really getting to know their students as people, not just as students who needed to learn some knowledge and develop some skills. Today, I want to revisit this challenge and apply it to the end of the year.

During the last month of school, learn something new about each and every one of your students that has absolutely nothing to do with their academic abilities.

I know, I know. It seems like there’s not time for this. You’re absolutely right that time is not going to magically appear to make this happen. But I think it’s there. It’s in hallway conversations and quick chats while the day begins. It’s in the conversations we have with students who’ve finished their work, and it’s in the moments where we’re walking out of the building and stop for a quick chat with a student.

It’s there. We just have to find it.

Adding a new habit into your routine on May 1st isn’t natural. It’s going to take effort. Here are a few recommendations:

1) Put a reminder in your phone for the day you go back to school that says, “Kids remember the relationships you develop with them. Who are you getting to know more today?” (Put another one on your calendar in two weeks that says, “What have you learned about your students this month? Who will you get to know today?”)

2) Identify two people on your campus who you can bring into this little project. It’s not always easy to find ways to connect. Don’t plan to go the journey alone.

3) If you’d like others to jump in on this, click this link to tweet out this challenge. The end of the year can get pretty busy, and we all benefit from the reminder to be about the right things as the school year ends.

Doing this just might make a kid’s day, and we’ll likely never know what impact that could have. I hope you’ll take the challenge!

If you like what you’re reading here, you might like my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–everyday every day–that talks about how big an impact our everyday actions really make. Get the book on Amazon or read more about the book here.