About ten days before school ended, I remember announcing to my class that this was our last Monday together before summer break. To my surprise, I heard a few groans and more than a few: "I don't want school to end!". I had been used to this when I taught in a low-SES neighbourhood, where summers off often meant a complete break from a steady and predictably-safe environment. But hearing this from my mostly well-off kids, who had plans of world travelling, specialized summer camps and endless play dates? I didn't expect it!
So I took the time to explain that we had all worked hard this year, and that we all deserved a break to relax now! To enjoy the hot weather, the long sunny days, eat tons of ice cream and play with our friends outside! And of course, we will all see each other again before we know it.
This class discussion made me think about the importance of closure. After spending all our days together for the better part of a year, even I'm sad to leave my crew. We have all those inside jokes! We have shared so many good and bad times together! Saying goodbye can be hard, specially for those not returning to us next school year, so it's important we do it right. Here are a few traditions I have in place to ease the transition, and to give everyone a peace of closure for the end of the school year!
The Most Detailed Attendance
It's almost comical how anal I become about the June calendar. "Will anyone NOT be here tomorrow, or for the rest of the year? X, will you be here? Y, when are you guys heading down to the States? Z, last year you had to finish early last year- what about this year?" In spite of my daily inquisitions, one or two students always end up leaving without coming back, sans warnings to themselves, to me or to their friends. And every year, this simultaneously bugs me and saddens me.
I think it is SO important for students to know when they are leaving school, and for their friends (and teachers!) to get a chance to say goodbye! Kids need the closure of goodbye hugs. It's essential that the adults in charge (a collaboration between teachers and parents) respect our shared children, and respect the relationships they've cultivated over the year.
Celebrating Summer Birthdays
I've written about the importance of celebrating birthdays before, but here I go again! It's so important to celebrate student birthdays, even if they occur on weekends or during the summer. This shows students that are thought-of and cared for all the time, not just when it conveniently fits our calendar. Also, I've had students not want to make birthday drawings for other kids because they thought their July birthdays wouldn't get celebrated. That bad attitude turns around quickly when they hear that I do ALL birthdays!
I typically schedule summer birthdays throughout the month of June, ensuring everyone gets their own day. Their birthdays are written on our calendar, and a little note is sent home explaining to parents why their child will be talking about their birthday a month early!
End of Year Awards
For the last two years, I've started the tradition of End of Year Awards with my students. Each award is personalized for the student and everyone gets one!
We roll out a red carpet (red paper if we have it...this year, I painted a red carpet on craft paper), put on award music and a video of a disco ball on a loop and we begin our ceremony! We go over the rules first: everyone claps for everyone, and everyone has the right to go to the end of the carpet to do their dramatic catwalk! My teaching partner and I put on our TV show host voices, and dramatically call out the awards like this: "for doing the right thing even when no one is looking, Mr. Integrity goes to... *kids do a drumroll* Johnny!" and then we do a round of applause, and pause for pictures.
End of Year Breakfast
If we don't have too many classroom allergies, I love to host a good classroom breakfast as an end of year activity. Each student is assigned a piece of food or cutlery to bring in. I set up our class tables as one mega table, so that we can eat family style. I even like to do place settings, and I have the kids help me in setting the table.
When it comes time to eating, I tell the kids a story from my past. When I was the army, the higher-ups always served the troops first, and they ate last. This is because leaders show the example, and put others first, and (I always liked to imagine) as a sign of respect for the troops. I always add that it's a little thing I can do to show them some love for a great year together!
The Importance of Traditions
These are a few of our little classroom end of year traditions. They change over the years depending on the kids. They help in the planning of it all, and they are the reason any and all these events are successes- it's thanks to their enthusiasm and participation that anything we do goes well. These traditions are a way of showing one another how much we mean to each other, and, for the end of the year, it's a celebration of all we've accomplished. What are some of your must-dos for class celebrations?
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