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.

6 Ways To Earn Credibility With Students

In schools all over the world, there are students who are willing to work hard for some teachers but not others. Why is that?

I think it comes down to the relational capital that some educators develop with their students. Teachers who have it can get some students to play when others can’t.

Sometimes this seems like some teachers just have an “it” factor that others don’t, but I believe that there are some purposeful steps we can build into our time at school to truly create the connections with students that convince them we have something valuable to say. This operates under the premise that we can’t assume all students respect teachers on principle. That’s just an observation. This post isn’t about whether that’s right or wrong, nor is it about how widespread this feeling may or may not be. What it is about is the reality that we will miss some opportunities to reach students if we don’t take the initiative to reach out.

NOTE: Anytime we address developing meaningful student-teacher relationships, it’s worth adding this clarification: I’m not at all advocating that students and teachers should be friends. That’s not the relationship I’m suggesting here at all. But there is a real need for educators to find ways to develop credibility with their students. Furthermore, I won’t claim that these are magic bullet options that are sure to work for every student (or in the same ways with different students), and I absolutely realize that academic issues surely play a central role in our work. Relationships alone will not do much to equip our students for success today or in the future. Still, I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to see these connections as lynchpins in our overall success.

What I do believe is that there are educator behaviors that put some on the fast track toward developing a trusting relationship with students. For them, everyday interactions become moments where credibility and trust are created and fostered. Not only that, I don’t believe there is much middle ground here (i.e. “the teacher who sort of cares about me”). Either we’re engaging with students, or we’re not. In a time where “kids these days” attitudes are all too commonly held, I think it’s our job to be the educators who develop meaningful relationships in a way that benefits our students long term.

Here are a few of the educator behaviors that fast track the relationships that help teachers truly make a difference for students.

Six Ways Educators Can Earn Credibility With Students


We all know that we make plenty of mistakes as educators, but there is some inexplicable hesitation among too many educators to own up to mistakes–especially those with students. A sincere apology is one of the quickest ways to create a connection with a student. As I’ve heard Jimmy Casas share, “Want to double your credibility with a student? Offer a sincere apology when the time calls for it.” When you make a mistake, take time to model how to come back from that the right way for your students. Name the mistake, take responsibility for your actions, commit to learning from that mistake, and do all you can to prevent it from happening again. It’ll create a lasting impression on your students.

Explain why

I often expected my students to make the connection from what we were doing in class and why it was important for them that day and long after the year was over. Explaining why something needs to be done in class gives students the perspective its importance for the long haul, and it’s a great way to recognize that need that many students have to understand the meaning behind their work.

Model what you are asking your students to do

If you are going to ask your students to do something in class, be willing to do that yourself. If they have to work problems they’ve just seen, be willing to do that yourself. English teachers–think about your practices around reading and writing. Are you asking your students to follow the same rules you follow? Pernille Ripp has written this wonderful post about this that is absolutely worth your time. Getting this right is sure to establish you as an educator who is worth listening to.

Extend an unexpected invitation

I came across this video recently for the first time. In it, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shares about how a simple interaction changed the course of his life forever. At the center of the interaction is an apology (this time from student to teacher) and an invitation to an unknown kid to come play football. Johnson claims the invitation changed his life. The invitation is powerful in any context, but the more unexpected the invitation, the more powerful the impact may be.

Ask for feedback from students. Actually use it.

Ask your students for their input on what you are doing in class. Certainly there is much about what you are teaching that must be included, but how you go about teaching offers a great deal of opportunity for personalization and creativity. I’m sure you’re doing great things in class, but do you have a sense of what is really getting the results and reactions you are hoping for in all those extra hours of planning? Ask your students for some feedback and find a way to include some of their feedback in your future plans. There’s no way they’ll miss the effort you’re putting in.

Show up at their events

If your students are old enough to have school sponsored extracurriculars, take a little time to go see them doing what they love. It does take a little time, but that time is always well spent. Students spend time talking about what we love in our classes, and I never regretted the choice to go and spend time at a play, concert, or game.

Again, we know that there are no magic formulas with relationships, but that shouldn’t mean that we throw our hands up and act like some students simply connect and others don’t. I’m hopeful that these will help you continue to create connections, but I’m sure there is more to add to this list. What else do you do that really builds credibility with students?

If you like what you’re reading here, you might like my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator. 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.

5 Restful Distractions (that might even make us more productive) #TeacherMyth

When looking at the time we have and everything that needs to be done, it can be easy to convince ourselves that the best course of action is always to double down on productivity. That mentality makes us do irrational things like skipping lunch to get more done and staying up far too late to try to pack in more productivity. I know we all have plenty to do, but I wonder if some of our extra exertion really helps us get more done or if sometimes it is actually counterproductive in the long run.

Schools have well defined schedules, and it can seem like the most productive course of action is to always maintain a nose to the grindstone approach. The trouble is that we all have limits, and if we continue to push ourselves to our limits with no opportunity to rest or rejuvenate, we will not be at our best to serve teachers and students.

Rest is hard for me. I want to solve the problems before me by working harder and longer than I thought I could, but I know that I need some rest in the middle of the whirlwind of work to really be my best.

So I want to invite you into the challenge I have for myself: find a way to slip one or two of these activities into your routine this week. It won’t make the to do list go away. It’s not a time turner. It’s not the sort of rest that we need and get outside of the school day, but I wonder if this might give us a change of pace and boost of positivity that will provide us the rest we need to be even more productive as we move forward overcoming challenges and serving others each day. I think it’s worth a try. Here are five ways to rest that might even make us more productive in the long run.

5 restful distractions (that might even make us more productive)

1. Expressing gratitude

Every day in a school is filled with a whirlwind of activity, but in the midst of all those organized events are a multitude of opportunities to thank people. Verbalizing that gratitude makes an impact, but writing it out is somehow different. Take the few minutes to thank someone on your campus. Delivering that message will provide a boost for you and for the recipient.

2. Reflecting

As the pace of work picks up, calendar out (even a tiny amount of time) for reflection. This will stretch some, but I’m going to encourage you to write about what’s going on. Think through what’s been memorable for the past week or month. What are students going to remember from the work you are putting in? While it’s not a requirement, I think it’s great to share some of your reflections with someone, and that brings us to…

3. Intentional social interaction

(I’m an introvert, so I need a little prompting here…) Take a little time and chat with someone purposefully. That doesn’t mean the topic has to be something heavy, but plan it into your day.Stepping away from the work for a brain break is important. I’d say even try to avoid work talk during this time. It’ll help you get to know folks and continue to connect to your peers at work. Armed with that new knowledge of those you work with opens up the door for…

4. Random acts of kindness

Become a force for positivity. As educators, there are plenty of hard days with tough situations. Given the myriad of challenges we face, intentionally adding some fun and kindness into your day will always be worth your effort. Post some of those “Take one” tear offs or some inspirational quotes in staff areas around your campus to make people smile or give them that extra reminder of the importance of our work. Maybe even ask a friend to bring soft drinks by for your team. It doesn’t take much effort to make people smile a bit and set someone’s day on a different trajectory.

5. Go outside

I can’t speak for you, but I spend a lot of time inside. I want to get outside a little more when time allows. If you can manage it and the weather allows, take a walk and get some sunshine.


See if you can roll a couple of these together (i.e. Go with a friend to put encouraging quote cards under people’s windshield wipers in the staff parking lot).

We all have plenty to do, but I really do believe that purposeful actions like these are a wise investment of our time. Our work is important, and while there will certainly be days that are truly just packed to the brim, if we can find ways to develop some of these other activities into habits in our routine, we might end up even better off in the long run.

If you give this a try, drop me a note in the comments about how it goes for you. I’d love to hear about your experience!

If you like what you’re reading here, you might like my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator. 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.

Everyday Impact

Teachers who engage students in those everyday moments are remembered for a lifetime.

Sometimes we don’t believe that.

We allow ourselves to believe that memories are made exclusively by a grand gesture. We think we have to be out of the box. Often, we think we have to do something other than be ourselves.

But I really believe that each of those statements are lies.

You will make a difference for the students you serve. Make sure it’s because they see you interact with them in a genuine, authentic way (especially in the everyday interactions). Those exchanges–the ones in the day to day times that seem small and don’t take long–might leave the most profound impact on our students. How we treat people each and every day can create just as memorable an experience as a big event.

Here are 4 simple ways to make everyday interactions places that create a lasting impact on students:

  • Give students fist bumps and high fives. Maybe it’s to celebrate something awesome going on. I tend to like it most when it’s for no reason at all.
  • Take a selfie with a student. Make sure you follow all the proper protocol and procedures for your campus/district so that taking and sharing these moments is nothing but positive. Students love selfies (and it’s especially novel when they get to take them with old people… like us…).
  • Find common ground with students in conversation. Who likes your favorite sports teams? Do you enjoy the same tv shows as any of your students? Do you play the same video games as your students? Even if you don’t (maybe especially if you don’t) immediately have common ground here, making the effort to learn what students enjoy goes a long, long way. Bring up an interest you have in common during your next conversation and watch the student light up!
  • Ask about life outside of school. Show an interest in their upcoming weekend plans (or how the weekend just went). Find out what kids are involved in outside of school. Who’s in the local theater company? Who’s competing on the weekends? Who’s at the library over the weekend? Who’s bored (and ready to come back to school) most of the weekend? All of this is great to learn about your students.

Everyday interactions happen each and every day. Each one is an opportunity to make a positive impact on students. Don’t miss your chance to make an impact!

Click to tweet this image & blog!

If you like what you’re reading here, consider checking out 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 discusses how our daily interactions with students often create the longest lasting impact. Read more about the book here or find the book on Amazon

The Power of Story

I loved reading my students’ writing, but one assignment in particular always brought out the most interesting reflections from my students.

The writing assignment asked students to wrestle first with this claim—“The thing about humans is that they are constantly comparing themselves to one another”—before moving on to the idea that with few exceptions, we are “people who [are] wired up so that something outside [ourselves] tells [us] who [we are]” (both quotations from Donald Miller’s, Searching for God Knows What).

That’s a lot to consider, but in class, when we kept the conversation focused on how this might apply to the literature we covered throughout the year, we not only found this idea to be true, but we also found this truth to be much more tolerable when applied to anyone other than ourselves. It seemed much easier to see that Huck Finn believed in half-truths and bald faced lies throughout his story than it was to ask whether we have treated others as less than human for the same reasons. Likewise, it seemed much easier to condemn the community that shuns Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter than to look at the reasons we accept or reject people today.

After talking about how stories shaped some of the characters we met throughout the year, we shifted the focus onto ourselves and asked: “What is your story? Who are you listening to? How is that going?”

Despite the relative discomfort caused by bringing this all up in class, my students overwhelmed me with their responses as they wrote about taking care of their families, setting goals to make people smile daily, and how exhausting it is to try to keep everyone thinking that everything is going great in their lives. Many wrote about clinging to the values that had been instilled in them. More than a few wrote about the relief of not having to be known as “the funny guy” or “the quiet one” after high school.

What shapes your story?

If we are truly wired up so that something outside of us tells us who we are, we need to ask ourselves the same questions I posed to my students. We need to identify the story we are living out. We need to identify the voices who we are letting in, the voices that influence on our journey. And we owe it to ourselves to honestly ask how that is going.

To say the least, that’s not easy.

There are certainly no shortage of voices that we could let in as educators. And with all those voices out there, if you don’t know which ones to listen to, you’re going to try to please them all. (Here’s a secret: That doesn’t work out well.)

Educators and students are labeled in all sorts of ways. Whether or not those labels are fair, whether or not those labels are accurate, the reality is that labels are there; they have a real power to influence us. It’s up to us to choose what gets fed into our story and what’s left on the cutting room floor.

The story can get distorted pretty quickly. Maybe you’ve believed you don’t have the experience to contribute to the team. Maybe you want to make a change, but you’re not sure what your team will think. Maybe you just feel like you are not enough for all your students need. Maybe that’s not you, but something else is there lingering in the back of your mind.

Take a minute and ask yourself those questions: What is your story? Who are you listening to? How is that going?

Write down your responses. Write down the voices you want to listen to and a couple of ways you can give those your attention. Write down a few voices you know will try to speak into your story that you plan on not giving your attention to.

Whose story will you shape?

But don’t stop with simply recognizing the ways that stories influence you. There’s an even bigger realization that we cannot miss: If we are wired up to let outside influences impact our stories, then we have the chance to serve others as a positive voice in their story.

What we have to say to others—friends and foes, new and old—matters more than we might have previously believed. It can profoundly shape someone’s story.

Don’t believe me?

Odds are that it’s no work at all to bring back a hurtful comment or a time someone went out of the way to pay you a genuine compliment. Both inform your story. Be the person who speaks truth and encouragement to others. You have no idea how powerful an impact it may have on someone’s story!

As you move throughout your week, I hope you seek out opportunities to speak life and truth into the lives of those around you—both those closest to you and those you’ve not even met. It’s your responsibility and your privilege to invest in others in this way.

If you like what you’re reading here, consider checking out my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator. Click here to learn more about the book on my blog or find the book on Amazon.

Ending the School Year Well

It’s May. It’s the end of the school year. And for many, it’s a time that pushes educators into survival mode.

It is May after all, so this seems appropriate.

A while back, I got to thinking about how much deliberate effort is spent on getting the first days of school just right. The tone we set during that first week does more for campus culture and climate than maybe any other week. It’s absolutely right for us to be deliberate and particular about how we begin the year, but for all the fuss about how we start things off, I rarely hear much about ending the year well. We cannot afford to do anything other than continue to pursue our students. Our students and colleagues are worth more than our survival mode efforts. We can make just as great an impact in our last days with students as we did in our first hours together.

Never stop getting to know your students (even at the end of the year). Invest in them. Let them know that they are loved.

Much like a successful start to the year, a successful end to the year is an active pursuit. I reached out to educators on Twitter and asked them what they do to make the end of the year great. Here’s what they had to say (in their exact words, rough draft form of course). Take some time to dig through their ideas. There’s something amazing for you in there. And share your ideas afterward. We’ll all benefit from you sharing your ideas for finishing the school year well!

Ashlee Wright, Classroom Teacher (@pezlady07)

Focus on the student, teach and model growth mindset, keep pushing them to make better choices, remember to be more student led than teacher driven.

Chad Lehrmann, Classroom Teacher (@DidacticChad)

I try to give them the most control they’ve had all year. Currently, some are doing TED talks, other classes will be designing lessons to teach for the full class period (groups). It is time for students to share back their learning, and teach each other. By teaching lessons, students gain insight into instruction, put content into their own terms, and as a bonus: they learn how tough it is to be a teacher!

Kimberly House, Classroom Teacher (@house5science)

I end the year by doing several STEM activities. The kids design, create, build, redesign, and compete with different things.

Susan Koch, Classroom Teacher (@SusanKochVT)

We make memory necklaces. Each student creates a signature bead from sculpy clay. They make sure to create a bead in this style for each member of our classroom community. We then have a sharing circle where each first grader receives a bead from each class member( teachers and IAs too) . Everyone has a keepsake to wear which reminds them of their special year together.

Katharine Millet, Classroom Teacher (@kkmillet)

Review Olympics– two weeks of competition and games with individual and team events. Every year I add new games. The goal is both review and to let the kids know how much they’ve learned this year.

Janie Hachen, Classroom Teacher (@Hachen2nd)

We do a economics unit and create a popcorn business. We go out to a local business called The Popcorner to see how they run the popcorn business. We also go to the bank and learn about taking out a loan. We pretend sign our start up loan. We vote on where the profits should go. We have donated to Jump Rope for Heart, tornado victims, local library. Each year it is something different.

Jane Juten, Classroom Teacher (@JTJuten)

My students present their Genius Hour projects. They teach all of us. Its a great way to end the year.

Katie Snow, Classroom Teacher (@snowscience5)

Since my subject is not tested until May, we really don’t have a lot of time to complete all the fun things on my list. In saying that, the last couple of years my teammates had a great idea – to complete STEM activities after our STAAR test. This year we are putting a spin on it… we will have a competition! For instance: Teacher A will hold a competition with STEM activity 1 in her classroom, Teacher B will hold a competition with STEM activity 2 in her classroom, Teacher C will hold a STEM activity 3 in her classroom, and Teacher D will hold a STEM activity 4 in her classroom. Learners will be able to choose which activity they want to complete with a team. They loved it when it was just in our classroom, so I anticipate this being even more fun for them!

During the last few days, I will also have my students complete a survey so I can gather feedback on my teaching, lessons, and content. I will send a similar survey to my student’s parents as well for their feedback on my communication, use of social media, their likes, and dislikes about our class, etc. to help me be improve.

Also, I recently found an awesome article (http://www.teachhub.com/top-12-effective-end-year-activities). It has some fantastic ideas for the end of the year! My favorite is “let the kids teach class” and “ask students to write letters to your future students.” Both of these are very meaningful. I NEED to fit at least one of these in!

When I taught 7th grade science (non-tested), I put together an after-school group and they created a video for my incoming 7th graders. It was amazing and they loved the experience. Also with this grade level and at the end of the year, I had my students attend “medical school” while we covered every human body system, which just so happens to be my favorite content area.

Julie Woodard, Classroom Teacher (@woodard_julie)

Our annual 6th grade Global Community service project gets kids really going and stoked to be in school (LINK)

Hands-on activities – like our current making of films about America to share with our collaboration school in Delhi India – kids like sharing around the world

To keep ME learning all year – and modeling that for kids- creating Sketchnotes of nifty learning worth sharing 😉

Jennifer Sheffield, Classroom Teacher (@jensheffieldtx)

Spend time on student generated PBL projects, allow students to prepare presentations and information for incoming class the next year, and we have a 5th grade take over day where they run the school.

Marina Rodriguez, Classroom Teacher (@mrodz308)

What I will do this year is:

  1. Have them create a Heart Map, so they can compare it with the one from the start of the year
  2. Read Aloud every day if possible & analyze, argue, discuss
  3. Practice blogging… all of us
  4. Lay out plans for them to begin an online book club over the summer
  5. Enjoy every last minute with them
  6. Teach till the end

Amy Mason, Classroom Teacher (@AggieAmy95)

I typically have my students complete a power point presentation reflecting back over the year (favorite lessons learned, highlights, pieces of advice, etc.). I enjoy completing a book study with my students as well. In the past we have looked at Sean Covey’s book 7 habits of highly effective teens. Since my students aren’t quite teens we read together and discuss the 7 habits. Then they take their copy of the book with them.

Sue Kramer, Classroom Teacher (@skramer7217)

We research a Famous American throughout the last two weeks of school. As the year gets crazy with end of the year assessments and scheduled chaos, the kids have a focus. We have a wax museum one of the last 3 days of school to showcase our learning.

Elyse Hahne, Classroom Teacher (@Hahne_KingEle)

Keeping the relationship positive; greeting students, celebrating successes, and thanking them

Megan Higgins, Classroom Teacher (@ESEteacherMegan)

We look at their overall growth, goals, tests scores, reading level, math level… we start talking about goals for ieps next year as well….. this builds confidence… we then review this at the beginning of the year to remind them of the possibilities.

Shauna Altman, Online Teacher (@shaunaaltman)

I used to do camp for a week. It was like a day camp in the classroom. We’d still learn, but in short lessons along a theme. I did Camp Ohana, with Elvis music and Hawaiian activities, I did Camp lickity split with tons of popsicle stick activities. Camp names! Lots of good memories all around!

Collette Lenarz, School Social Worker (@collenarz)

Checking in, a count down of things we “get to do” before summer arrives (eat lunch with friends, spend time with our fav staff, make memories, etc…), we also have an end of the year fishing/picnic day for all of our students that receive sped services; we let them know that learning is hard sometimes and they came to school daily and challenged themselves, overcame obstacles and worked hard. Students, sped teachers, and paras all come along, we play bags, fish, BBQ and have a kick ball tourney…playing together to celebrate the year!

Amber Teamann, Administrator (@8Amber8)

Play at recess! make sure my postcards are all sent! celebrate academic and personal successes!

Free up meeting time for Ts to feel less stress, allow jeans, & buy more chocolate…

Bethany Hill, Administrator (@bethhill2829)

We focus on making the most of every moment right up until the #lastbell
Community grade level meetings to discuss how to make the last weeks as a family the best they can be

Bret Bryant, Administrator (@BretBryant)

1. In mid-Feb., we partnered w/ another elem school in another state and embarked on a “Work Hard/Play Hard” Challenge. The challenge was for students to accomplish 10,500 pieces of proficient/distinguished work. For every 300 pieces they collected, they earned a puzzle piece that revealed part of the “play hard” activity. The puzzle pieces are displayed on a large bulletin board at the entrance. Once the puzzle is complete the entire school will enjoy the activity! 2. We just had a community kickball game called “The Green Patch” game b/c it’s played on the corner of Green/Dickinson St. Families love it! 3. We purposely focus on relationship building and out of the box thinking just like we did at the beginning of the year. 4. We stick to the fundamentals – relationship building, expectations, and working hard and playing hard.

Jeff Veal, Administrator (@heffrey)

We do a house challenge to motivate and keep our 8th grade invested the last 6 weeks. They have a blast as we split them into 4 “houses,” do a weekly challenge, keep points for academic and behavioral success, and do house team prizes!

Jeff Kubiak, Administrator (@jeffreykubiak)

Continue the high fives, fist bumping and name recognition. Also, push to find the sleeper, quiet kiddo that may need some help coming out of his shell. Can’t forget the teacher support and recognition!

Brent Clarkson, Administrator (@BClarksonTX)

Continue building on existing relationships by having intentional conversations. I focus a lot on what they’re going to do with family, how they’re going to re-energize for the next school year, and let them know that I can’t wait to see them next school year (or wish them well for their future if they’re moving on). I want them to know that I value them and their education but also (and just as important) that I value the time that they will have away from the formal educational setting. Family time, and time to re-energize away from school is so important.

Melissa Bettencourt, Administrator (@mbetten5)

Giving students an opportunity to demonstrate and solidify their leaning by giving them more choice over what they are learn and how. Self directed projects that can be shared with their classmates.

Ivan Tamayo, Administrator (@estebantam)

I would say, creating stronger and more positive relationships with parents and students. They need to know that they’re important for us even at EOY.

Kaleb Rashad, Administrator (@kalebrashad)

12th grade Endersession, 11th grade Internships, Presentations of Learning, 10th grade Inspire Week, Exhibition, Internship Presentation of Learnings, Senior Breakfast

Matt Arend, Administrator (@matthew_arend)

Relationships! Our 5th graders have a school dance the last week to build last memories as well as a celebration that mirrors a graduation of sorts.

Also, on the final day we do “bump up day” where each grade gets to go see the teachers and grade level they will be in next year. During this time the students currently in the grade have left cards or messages of some sort for the next group of students coming in.

KN students do a end of year song celebration inviting parents to come and celebrate the end of the year.

Field Day


Jeff Mann, Administrator (@Mann4Edu)

As a school we have celebrations that recognize the hard work and achievements of students. This ranges from awards ceremonies where students are recognized by grade level and content areas to our field day activities. We have field day activities for each grade level where we all go off campus and spend a day having fun and being with school friends.

In my district, middle school is a quick two years because we only have grades 7 and 8. This makes our school more of transition time for students than anything and because of this we have to help orient students quickly. We do this though school videos and school tours for the incoming 7th grade students. In the middle of May all 6th grade students from our feeder intermediate campus will tour our school during the school day. These incoming students will also watch videos made to show the school in more detail as well as with tips and tricks from current middle school students. The current 6th grade students like this because they are able to see what is going to occur in middle school before summer begins and the current middle school students like this because they are able to be he experts and share their knowledge about their school.

As the principal I encourage my teachers to end the year on a high note by trying new and different teaching styles and approaches. State assessments have ended and the month of May is a great way to try a flipped unit, a PBL unit, incorporate genius hour activities, or even practice using learning stations. I find the teachers are more willing to try new things in May because they are not worried about a state assessment. What I have observed is the teachers see their students having fun with the different approaches to teaching and learning because it is not the same routine they have come to know. As a result of this willingness to “experiment” with their teaching, the teacher is more likely to make adjustment to their teaching the following year. This helps end the year on a high note for the students and the teachers.

Ryan Frazier, Administrator (@rfrazier_chs)

Our seniors end the year with a service day. They volunteer at various places around the community. This has proven valuable for the students and local organizations. We have received multiple letters from community organizations thanking the seniors and asking that more seniors return the next year. This experience leaves the students with a good feeling as they graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives.

There are SO many great ideas here. Reach out to the authors of these ideas. Collaborate with them. Follow them over the last month of the year on Twitter and see what all they are doing to make the last days of the school year GREAT for students!

Have a wonderful final month with your students!

3 Ways to Make a Difference This Week

This time of year often brings out this question: “Am I making a difference?”

I often share lightheartedly that now is the time where we’ve shifted from a “We have so much of semester left” mindset to a “We have so much left to do in the semester” reality. As the days go by, to do lists fill up, testing rolls around, and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves spending most of our time doing things that have noting to do with why we set out to become educators.

I know this happens because I’ve noticed this in myself. Earlier in the semester, I set out to start the day focused on the things that matter most to me. Before heading out to morning duty, I wrote out projects for the day that helped me focus on accomplishing two overall goals: “Create an environment where all staff and students feel safe and welcomed. Equip teachers to innovate in the classroom.”

That became the litmus test for the projects I could take on and the direction the flexible time in my schedule took. Often, that wasn’t an overwhelming amount of time, but when it did come along, I was focused on getting meaningful work done. And then, I got busy. I missed a day. Then I missed a couple of days. And before I knew it, I hadn’t written out that why statement in a couple of weeks.

It was not my favorite realization from this year.

Pursuit of what matters in education is an everyday exercise. Our momentum will carry us far less than we’d like, but the disciplined pursuit of excellence in this area can create lifelong change for ourselves and those we serve.

Before reading further, take a minute to write down why you believe in being an educator. Maybe it’s why you started out in this field. Maybe it’s something that’s changed over time. But think about this: Why are you still excited about doing this tough work? Tweet that out. Post it on Facebook. Put it somewhere where you and others will see it. We need that positive reinforcement and reminder about not just all the “what” we have to do. We need to see why we’re doing this. But don’t post it and forget it. In what you can control, relentlessly pursue the work that matters most to you. Don’t miss the opportunity to do something amazing before the school year ends.

I’ve yet to find the person who exclusively does what they are most passionate about in education. We all have responsibilities that feel more like work than others. Still, we need a plan (or at least I need a plan) to help stay on track during the busiest times of the year.

We cannot let our circumstances define our reality. Our purpose is bigger than our to do list.

So, I want to counteract that overwhelming feeling that can sometimes creep in on us. I know each of us have some nonnegotiables that simply have to be done. However, in the midst of what can feel like some pretty busy spring days, here are a few ideas to help keep us focused on our why.

1. Keep Getting to Know Your Students

Relationships are our focus in August, but we prioritize getting to know kids during the spring semester in a different way. By now, relationships have formed and we’re getting to enjoy the interactions with our students that only come after substantial time and energy has been invested. But as some relationships go deeper, who are we missing? Who are the students in the gaps? The ones that multiple teachers are thinking, “Someone else must have connected with him, right?” Who are the invisible students who have to be sought out? Write down a couple of students you can make a point of getting to know this week. Put reminders in your phone or somewhere you will see to make sure it happens.

2. Create a Collegial Connection

What do people expect from their interactions wth you at school? Where do you notice that you tend to stay surface level? With whom do you dive a little deeper relationally? Think through your routine and identify a couple of coworkers you can get to know better this week. I’m not asking you to do something terribly deep and vulnerable here. Maybe it’s striking up a conversation between you and a coworker who is not in your hallway/grade level/department (where isolation tends to settle in on many campuses). Maybe it’s checking in with a friend on another campus. In any case, intentionally connecting at any level reminds is that we are not alone in this work.

3. Make Someone’s Day

Think about someone who deserves something awesome in their day. Maybe it’s a student. A teacher who’s always serving others selflessly. Maybe it’s a staff member whose in a service role–a custodian or cafeteria worker. Think about what would make their day and find a way to make that happen. Maybe even rally a few people around to help celebrate this person. It doesn’t have to be complicated; even finding a student and asking them about a connection you have can make their day. Whether your random act of kindness is something ordinary or over the top, time and energy spent in the service of others is always well spent–even during the busiest times of the year.

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I’m thrilled to be able to add this sketchnote from Julie Woodard. She’s an amazing sketchnoter. Check out her work on Twitter!