As another school year has wound down to its last few days, I have found myself spending a great deal of time reflecting on accomplishments and challenges. A school year is filled with many moments, some that we will cherish forever and some that we might like to forget. Regardless of the context of the moment, it is always amazing to watch the growth in students and staff that occurs throughout a school over the course of a single 10 month period of time. I am always taken aback as I consider all the hard work and effort that comes from an entire staff to make a school year a successful one for our students.
While there are many wonderful moments of a school year to consider and celebrate; there is also a great deal of busyness that can consume us as we try to tidily wrap up the school year. End of the year weariness and frustrations can sometimes overshadow the greatness achieved throughout the year. I feel it is this time of year, so close to the end, that needs our greatest focus. Now is an important time to think back on our year and plan towards the future. If we “just survive” May, we miss a huge opportunity to improve our classrooms. Summer can be a great revitalizer, but we can also forget about those great ideas, or decide to put them off until later. You know the ideas I am talking about — the ones we tried once, had success with and promised ourselves that we would work in other ways to repeat them. Or, those everyday challenges that need attention in our classrooms now, but we have figured it is too late in the year to attempt to fix. At the end of the year, we vow to do things differently next year.
Without reflection at the end of a school year, we settle for another year of readdressing the same issues and muddling through the same problems because we never took time to think about solutions while the issues were fresh in our minds. Do we settle for what we have always had because it is what we are not willing to take risks on, and move forward on, in pursuit of better things. I have reminded myself often this year, that a school year is a marathon and each day deserves the same attention and energy as every other day. As I am writing this post, I will be honest, I am feeling very overwhelmed by the thoughts of getting everything that needs to be done, done. I also, each day, remind myself the end of a school year is not truly an end, it is a time to regroup, refresh, and push forward with new ideas and new methods for the new students who will be sitting in front of all of us in just a couple of months.
I encourage you to not just settle here at the end of this year. Take time to reflect on what has gone well and what challenges you have faced. Look for problems you were not able to solve this school year and find some summer readings that will help you learn about these ideas before next school year. Figure out what helped your students the most this school year and use this information to build new structures and cultures in your classroom next year. Each day is just another part of your journey, there are no endpoints in the success or challenges of a school year. Think back to what worked the best and what needs the most attention, then use these ideas to keep moving forward!
Right now, at the end of the day, before you go home for summer… get out a piece of paper and write down a list of the ideas that came to mind as you read this post. Then, put it somewhere you will find it in those early prep days for next year. Just realize the longer you wait to reflect on this year and figure out how to apply it to next year, the harder it will be remember the things you are thinking about right now.
Have a great summer!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!
P.S. Here are the books I plan on reading this summer to support my own personal learning and growth.