This school year has been another very challenging one. Many of us had to cope with distance and hybrid teaching again, along with uncertainty and challenging periods back in the classroom.
We may not have had any choice in these circumstances, but we can choose to end this year on a high note.
After facing these challenges, our school communities need it just as much as we do.
For us to finish this year with courage, and to inspire parents and students to view their next school year with hope, we can reflect, get personal, and get planning!
Reflecting on everything that’s happened
For some this might be making notes, for others meditating — but our goal is the same: think about what has taken place and what we’ve learned from it.
Here are some things you might consider:
What progression looks like — Distance learning, disrupted schedules and being separated from peers can have wide and varying effects on your students. Some might thrive being able to work at their own pace, others might get distracted easily. Identify different types of students and think of how you might address their common challenges.
How parent relationships have changed — Expectations, roles, and communication have evolved rapidly. Taking the time to understand what’s realistic for parents to achieve, what support they need, and what they can realistically expect from you, will make the planning process easier.
Ways to improve efficacy — What worked? What didn’t work? How can it be better? Considering how you can match your instruction delivery with your workload has two benefits; first, on learning outcomes for your student, and second, preventing potential burn out next year.
Make it feel personal for everyone
Give a meaningful and personal goodbye to the students who stayed with you during this challenging time. Make sure to do the following:
Give recognition to every student
Your strugglers, your high-achievers, your end-of-year-no-shows – everyone. By noting the qualities or accomplishments individual students have made, you can make them feel connected and noticed.
The benefit of having discovered new digital ways of communicating is that you can deliver recognition in a way that resonates with each student. Some might like to be mentioned during a live lesson, some might prefer an email to their parents — and some might like to listen to it in their own time with a personally recorded message.
Encourage peer praise
Encourage students to commend one another for something positive they did, be that supporting their learning, staying connected, or just giving them an opportunity to laugh and have some fun. By building this camaraderie and closeness before the year closes out gives them an opportunity to feel connected and look forward to coming back to their classmates in the new school year.
Your students have been at the forefront of multiple upheavals and changes in global education. Encourage them to reflect on what they have experienced and taken away from this time with the following questions:
What have I learned about myself and my own learning during this time?
What were the biggest challenges I faced?
What were my successes?
What will I do differently next year?
What are my goals for next year?
Reach out to parents
After experiencing what it’s like to step into a teacher’s shoes (while also wearing working and parent shoes), parents will appreciate any words of encouragement.
Planning for the new year
Getting together the resources and plans we need to hit the ground running in the new year will reduce stress and give us a semblance of control. Here’s a few things you can plan for:
Lean teaching — looking at what’s been working, what hasn’t, and where you can make the new normal as efficient as possible.
Upskilling with technology — become more at one with the technology that’s been giving you headaches, or seek more efficient alternatives to programs you’re currently using. Some programs will come with a resource or training centre (like our very own Help Hub for our suite of products), or you might look to YouTube, blogs or teacher communities to get more guidance and advice.
Plan your approach with colleagues — knowledge, resource and experience-sharing can take the pressure off learning or creating something from scratch. It also provides the opportunity to decide as a school or department what realistic goals look like and plan strategies to achieve them.
But there’s one more thing that can guarantee ending the year on a high note …
Look after yourself
Most importantly, use the holidays to recharge, reflect and give yourself some physical and mental space after a tough year. You’ll be much better placed to provide for a new class of eager young faces next year.
So, take care of yourself, you’ve earned it.