It's the last month of school, and the end is near. You may possibly see the light at the end of the tunnel, but in normal end-of-school fashion, you are probably chasing your tail. I never knew if I was coming or going. It was a miracle from heaven if I made it to school with my lunch and two matching shoes. The last month of school is a whirlwind of awards ceremonies, testing, cleaning, catching up, and all things sleep-depriving.
The truth is, my husband and three children always knew that during the last month of school, I was on autopilot and could not be trusted to remember anything. Yes, I would tell my kids to put their shoes in the fridge and their breakfast in their closet. Over the years, I got better at managing the controlled chaos and worked harder at camouflaging my inner hot mess. It wasn't easy, but I finally figured out how to make it work and keep my sanity. My youngest also finally got real birthday parties because bless his heart, his birthday is the last week of school, and he was lucky to get a store-bought cupcake some years.
Clean, Purge, & Organize
Let's be honest, that cabinet that was beautifully organized the first week of school could now be considered dangerous, and if you move one thing, it could all come tumbling down. It's like Monica's closet on Friends. You are not alone. We all have that space.
A few years ago, I started a new method for organizing my classroom the last month of school. I basically divided my room up into four sections, and each week, I would tackle one section. If there were cabinets in that section, I brought everything out and put it on the tables and floor. If I didn't use it at all that year, I gave it away. If I had used it, I reorganized it in a labeled container, so I would know exactly where to find it next year. I would also put sticky notes or note cards inside cabinets with an inventory.
I saved the bigger sections of my room for testing week. Being a kindergarten teacher, it was life or death when the big kids tested. They couldn't hear us or see us, and no one checked on us, that's for sure. It was survival of the fittest. Well, that actually worked out great for me because one thing my kids LOVED to do was help me clean and organize. I always laughed at Meet the Teacher when I would tell parents that their kids would never help clean. Ha! Anyway, they would help me sort all the things and put it back together all nice and neat. By the time we got to the last week of school, my entire classroom had been gutted and put back together. It was always a nice healthy purge, and the best part about it was that I never had to come up during the summer to organize my room.
Print The Necessities Early
The closer you get to the end of the year, the more likely the school is to run out of paper or copies. Also, the copy room is a mad house with everyone printing awards, assessments, and let's not even talk about how many times that thing gets jammed. I go ahead and print my summer calendars, awards, and anything I know we will need the last two weeks at the beginning of the month. I also print out whatever I can to get ahead for when I return back to school.
Get Helpers From Other Grades
At the end of the year, there is just too much to get done and often our, errr “busy friends” find ways to get into trouble because the structure is different, and it throws everything off. I always email the “big kid” teachers and ask them if they have any students that need something to do. I told them they were welcome to send kids my way for a bit. It didn't matter to me if they were the biggest behavioral problem for their teacher, they always wanted to help me. I think the change of environment helped them. So, I had a slew of fifth graders come through my room the last month of school. My students loved it. They would help my kids with projects they needed to finish or read to them. They would also help me prep stuff that I would send home with my students over the summer and even for next year. Extra hands are THE BEST, and often it was a moment of peace another teacher needed. Super WIN.
Yes, I said that. You may be rolling your eyes at me saying you are just trying to stay afloat, and I totally get it, but when you have all of these tips in motion, believe it or not, you will have time to get ahead. What does that look like? Well, I know that when I return to school I will be my own version of crazy, so I try to do things for next year before this year is over. I really want to spend my summer focused on my own family and not living at school. I go ahead and wipe off all of my cubby tags and make new ones that didn't survive the school year so they are ready for new names in August. I also go ahead and laminate all of my nameplates for the next year with my personal classroom laminator.
Thinking ahead to Meet the Teacher, I update my About Me page. Not much changes except the ages of my kids and how long I've been married. I'm quite sure I will still love peanut m&m's and Diet Coke. Ha! I print out everything I know that won't be changed for Meet the Teacher and file it. I print off my supply labels for the millions of school supplies that I will get in August, so they are ready, too. I always started the year with Fine Motor Centers, so I also have them pulled in a tub. Before turning off my lights to leave for the summer, I change my calendar wall to August and pull the Back-to-School books. Believe it or not, all of these tasks only take me a few hours, but they save me so much more than that when I return in August.
Make A Summer List
To think that you won't work at all during the summer is kinda crazy train. When people tell me it must be nice to be a teacher because I get to leave early and have summers off, I kind of want to punch them in the face. Don't worry, I get right with Jesus real quick, smile, and walk away. Ha! There are always things we want to do better or change for the next year. I try and keep a journal or make notes on our year-at-a-glance throughout the year. Each year I evaluate my strengths and weaknesses (and sometimes there are too many weaknesses to choose from), and I pick one area to work on the following year. For example, if I felt like teaching math was my greatest weakness throughout the school year, I would pick a book to read that involved teaching math. I would also spend time over the summer doing research on our curriculum, reading blogs, and creating or purchasing resources that helped me provide more engaging and purposeful lessons. I usually break my list down by week or month to make sure I space out what I need to do and also keep myself from my actual greatest weakness, procrastination.
I hope you found one of these tips helpful as you wrap up your school year. Remember that when you spend a little extra time now getting your classroom ready for next year, you save yourself time during the summer. During the summer, unplug from school. Go to the beach. See a movie. Make memories with your family. Don't live at school! You have worked so hard this school year. You deserve a break. I challenge you do all of the things in this post and see how much peace and time it will give you when you lock your door on the last day. Walk away knowing that you are already to hit the ground running come August, and more importantly, you are ready to live it up this summer!
Love and virtual hugs,