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Save Your Sanity: Surviving the END of the Year!



Happy Hump Day Friends!

If you are like me... you are officially in the countdown to summer.  Some of you may even know the exact hours and minutes.... but you don't have to share that secret ;)

Let's face it.... the school year is winding down... and you may feel like your sanity is GONE.  Completely gone.  Lost forever.  

Your students are behaving in ways that you thought only animals could.  Their listening skills may be borderline toddler stage.  AND.... your to-do list is only growing with the amount of things you have to complete for the end of the year.

I GET IT. I am finishing up year 11 (hard to believe!) and every year feels the same.  Whether you have taught only 1 semester or you are wrapping up year 34.... the end of the year is draining.

You have worked SOOOOOOO incredibly hard for over 150 days in a structured routine of curriculum and behavior management.... its no wonder that you are TIRED.  Your students are tired.  BUT.... you still have days left with these students.  To teach them.... to care for them.... to make it FUN and memorable for them!

SOOOOOO......   This post will hopefully help you in *some* way to save a part of your sanity so that you can survive successfully to the end of the year!


ESGI hosts their LIVE monthly webinars for teachers (and they are free!) - be sure to follow ESGI on Instagram and Facebook to sign up for these each month!!

Anyways.... I was blessed to be the webinar presenter / speaker for April.... and you guessed it... the topic was "Sanity Saving Solutions - Surviving the LAST month of School!"

We had SOOO much fun (even though you could only see me on the camera and I couldn't see you all!)  I did receive LOTS of questions (hundreds.....) and I'm hoping this post will help answer some of those for you that did watch AND help those of you who are joining for the first time!

On the webinar.... I shared TEN different Sanity Saving tips that you could try or modify if you are already doing.... so hang in there with me til' the end......




Below I will share the same 10 tips from the webinar WHILE answering many of the questions received DURING the webinar!!

(A LINK TO THE WEBINAR IS AT THE END OF THE POST FOR ANYONE TO VIEW)


Now you are probably thinking.... I do BRAIN BREAKS all.the.time.

Well.... research tells us that if you take a student's age and ADD the number 2.... you get the maximum number of minutes they are able to stay truly engaged and focus before the mind needs to re-set.

That's only like 5-10 minutes MAX for our kids.  So now... how often are you doing brain breaks?

I highly suggest you step back from the lesson or activity every 15-20 minutes and BREAK.

It doesn't have to be a video or guided dance break (although those are FUN!), you can easily do movements with your students.

( Examples - 15 jumping jacks, touch your toes 10 times, count to 100 by 10's - jump each time, etc...)

Although... I do like a good guided dance break as well!  Some of my favorites include:

GoNoodle - free for teachers and SO many options (all including educational!)

Cosmic Kids Yoga - can be found on YouTube!  They range from 2 minutes to 30 minutes!

The big challenge here is making sure your students DO have a break from engagement to re-set back into learning mode!!!  (or you AND the kids will lose your sanity!)


We've hit the point in the school year where curriculum is falling thin and most subjects and concepts have been taught in entirety.  Sooooo... we need to have our students ENGAGED to help with behavior concerns AND to keep the learning rolling!

How do we do that?  With PASSION PROJECTS!   These are projects that students WANT to learn and read about.  These can be research projects.... questions that students may have about a specific topic.... ANYTHING that the student is passionate about!

Many times we research animals because students are fascinated with knowing more information and facts about different animals (ocean, zoo, forest, etc...) but you can easily research just about anything!  (food, sports, hobbies, talents, your school history, the next grade levels, etc...)

We recently went to the zoo on our kindergarten field trip and came back with a passion for zoo animals.  We created charts, lists, questions, and I ended up creating an entire pack with non-fiction pictures and recording research pages.



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Zoo-Animal-Research-K-1-3744200
YOU CAN CLICK ON THE PICTURE ABOVE TO CHECK OUT THE ZOO PACK OR CLICK HERE.

A few questions answered:

How do the kids do the research?
Great question!  Many of our students are still NEW readers and would have a difficult time researching on their own.... but that doesn't mean they don't have questions ABOUT the topic of research!  I let them ask ALL of their questions and we make charts and lists together with me modeling and writing for them.  I also check out books from the library, print pictures that are REAL for them to see and let them write and read all they want to!  You can also pull up safe sharing sites and let students use the SAFE internet to answer their questions, look at pictures, etc....

When do you have time to do Passion Projects?
Another great question... seeing as how our day is already full to the max with other content and learning!  At this point in the year.... it becomes a little easier to do these passion projects (although we can integrate them in throughout the year!)..... our curriculum is often spiraling now and we can tie these research and passion projects into that learning.
Are you learning about adjectives?  Living/Non-Living?  Problem Solving?  Adding/Subtraction?  You can easily incorporate those skills INTO your projects during already scheduled lessons and activities.  It doesn't have to be a full day of passion.... easily 15-20 maybe even 30 minutes!   You can do it.... and your kids will LOVE it!


S

Sometimes... when you have done something so long and with such structure.... you tend to slack and get laid back.  It's ok... we all do it.  It's the same with school.  We have this constant routine and structure that we have done for 8 months... every.single.day and sometimes we still expect our students to just "know" how and when and why to do everything.  But.... that's not the case!  We still have to be on our toes at all times or chaos *may* be present!

One thing my partner teacher and I did was switch up our schedule for just ONE day.  Instead of teaching writing in the afternoon.... we moved it to FIRST thing in the morning!  Our results were AMAZING! Our students wrote like little authors for the first time in a long time.  We didn't do anything different... except change up the time we did it!

CHALLENGE: Switch just ONE subject for the day to see if the engagement is different or you see different results with student work.  I guarantee you will!!!!!!


You don't only have to change up your schedule... you can easily do something fun and simple!

- Eat lunch in your room one day with your students.
- Sit in a different place while teaching
- Switch up morning work - let them come straight into a brain break!
- Read a book after every single lesson - just as a gift of reading!

It doesn't have to be a huge change... just something enough to rock the routine!

Questions:

I'm not sure my administrator will approve if they come in and see me teaching a different subject than I'm supposed to.  How do you handle that?
Great question.....
Research tells us that our brains and bodies are MOST engaged and active the first 2-5 hours of the day.  However... we often teach writing, science, and social studies at the END of the school day..... so I would share that research with my administrator if they do see a concern (most wont if you are changing for a positive result in students!) and just share that you are wanting to see students shine in their work and efforts!
AND... if you are wanting to change it up for the day.... you can always go chat with your administrator before hand just to give a heads-up and reasoning as to why you are wanting to do it!
Ahhhhhh.... E.S.G.I.  has truly saved my sanity (and not just at the end of the year.... but ALL YEAR!).




If you are not familiar with ESGI, you can check out my blog post HERE to read about all of the AMAZING things you can do to help save you time with student assessments AND better your instruction!!!!

BUT DON'T WAIT TOO LONG!!!   ESGI is doing their Spring Fling deal right now and YOU can get ESGI FREE through August 31....

You will have to sign up BEFORE MAY 15 and use the code: WILD

If you want more information on the Spring Fling deal.... read my post HERE!



You already know how many days you have left (12 here!) so why not celebrate WITH your students.  Celebrate in a FUN way.... so they see the true joy of being in your room!

Many teachers do a 10 day countdown - with balloons and fun incentives or learning activities stuffed inside!  Pop one a day and do the activity!

We do an ABC countdown and countdown the last 26 days of our year!  Each day includes an activity that represents that letter!

You can also celebrate each and every student in a positive way!  So.... if you have 23 students.... celebrate 23 days (one day per student!).  They get to sit in a special seat... use special pens/markers, etc..., maybe eat lunch with you or sit somewhere special at lunch.... just a fun way for EACH student to be praised and recognized!

YOU'VE GOT THIS!!!!!



Y'all.   The behavior is at it's finest towards the end of the school year.  {sarcasm at it's best)  The behavior is out of control.  Even your most well behaved students are doing things they would NEVER do.   Kids are rolling on the floor.  Acting like circus animals that were just released after eating a bucket of cotton candy.  It's insane!

BUT..... it doesn't have to be!

It's time to pull some extra tricks out of the bag for the last remaining weeks!  What has worked throughout the year may not be working any more.  (and that's normal!)  Don't feel like you are the only class that looks like a movie clip from Kindergarten Cop.  It's happens to the best of us!

One of our favorite incentives is Ten Frame Take-Away


Ten Frame Take-Away is a great visual that DOES allow for extra warnings and reminders.  Each day the class starts with ALL ten in their ten frame and the teacher with ZERO.  As the day progresses, IF students are off-task, not following directions, etc... then one of the ten frame points goes into the teacher's ten frame.  By the end of the day.... the goal is that the class has MORE than the teacher! 

You can easily do this with small groups as well where each group must "beat" the teacher for the day!

You can determine an incentive that is rewarded if the class reaches the goal!

Another incentive I absolutely love is Praise & Raise!

Praise and Raise is giving positive praise to students to raise their confidence among their peers and self.  I like to do this during our morning meeting.  I praise multiple students with something positive so that ALL students hear the praise and truly lift up their confidence!  It can be something as simple as "I absolutely love that you came in so nice this morning and got right to work..... what a great job!"

It's all about being POSITIVE..... and not so negative (as it's easier to do towards the end of the year!)

You can see some other favorites in the webinar (linked at the end of this post!)



When I say you are not alone.... I mean it.  I guarantee you that the staff at your school is also in dire need of saving their sanity.  Don't make the end of the year depressing.... make it FUN... and get the staff involved!

Our school does a "Keep the Quote" that hangs for all to see in the main hallway!  It's a simple positive quote that can inspire anyone who needs the advice!



After about a week or so.... the quote is handed to a teacher (or feel free to tear it off for yourself if you feel the quote speaks to you!) and then another quote is added to the roll!


If you have a pretty fun and care-free staff.... STAFF BINGO is the way to go!



You can easily set a goal (fill in 5 boxes..... get a row..... get the most in a week) whatever you want to do!

It's just a fun little activity for the staff to be a part of...... the "winner" can receive something simple - FREE JEAN day.... candy.... recess duty off!  Doesn't have to be huge.... but super fun!

Questions:

How long do you do this with the staff?
You can choose the duration!  You can do one day.... a week.... till the end of the year... completely up to you!

What if a lot of the staff won't participate?
Well.... not everyone is up to having fun.  (Especially if you teach a testing grade and they are still in full on learning / teaching mode..... they have other things on their mind!) You can easily do this with your team of teachers or a select group!  It's just to have fun during the end of the year!


Again.... you can see more staff fun by watching the webinar!!!


This one is my least favorite.... but sometimes a must!  When our students start acting like the beginning of the year again... we need to teach the rules and procedures like the beginning of the year again.  Get back to the basics of expectations!

You may have to create a new chart explaining the expectations of the cafeteria, the playground, how to sit on the rug, how to use materials, how to walk in the hallway, etc...

IT'S OKAY TO REVIEW YOUR EXPECTATIONS!




The end of the year is overwhelming.  That's not a secret.  We have end of year data to collect, assessments, parent conferences, papers to fill out, papers to file, etc....

Our classroom starts looking like a tornado comes through daily and our desk is barely visible.

This is where SMALL GOALS come into play!

Set small achievable goals so that you feel success and less frazzled!

Examples:

- On Mondays - clean off your desk
- On Tuesdays - organize book shelves and centers/stations
- On Wednesdays - file a stack of papers away
- On Thursdays - make next week copies
- On Friday - wipe tables, clean off teacher table

That is just an example of SMALL goals.

You can easily do this with students as well:

- On Monday - read or collect data with 3 students, Tuesday, 3 more... etc...

It's all about setting small goals so you can ACHEIVE them......   :)



Tip 10..... is probably the hardest, yet easiest at the same time.  It's all about finding the balance between school and YOU.

Find time for YOU.

Take a night off of cooking.  Forget about the laundry tonight.  Read a book for pleasure (not because you HAVE to read something for work).  Have a glass of wine (or something stronger... I won't tell!)

YOU HAVE TO FIND THE BALANCE TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

Teaching can over-take your life.  You spend your evenings, weekends, before school, after school, and every second in between thinking or working on something for school.

You need to do you!

Cell phones - set aside.  Not for calling or texting.... but for social media.  It's hard to see other teachers looking perfect in May and their students all learning and engaged on Facebook and/or Instagram... when you are barely surviving.

(That's all a highlight reel by the way) ;)

I challenge you to find time for you... even if it's just 30 minutes at night for YOU.  Sit on the back porch.  Take a hot bath.  Take a nap!

Find the balance!



Now..... if you are still hanging around... you can easily watch the full webinar by clicking it below!

I truly hope (no matter how many days you have left)... that enjoy them.  I know we are excited for summer... but all of the students in your class will always remember YOU.  30 years from now.... when they are asked who their _______ teacher was .... they will say YOU.   So cherish the last few days.... enjoy them and make the most of them....


WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SANITY!








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