May 22, 2019
As summer approaches, time has a way of passing more quickly as we have things to close out and are just plain ready to say goodbye and get a bit more flexibility in our schedules, even if only for a short time before starting something else. Visions of free time without parent calls, grading and lesson plans make our hearts skip a beat with excitement and anticipation. Many schools have an end of year sign out checklist they give out in the last few weeks, as well as supply orders, books and keys returned—it’s overwhelming! The idea of adding more to your to do list can be enough to take your “teacher tired” to a new level. So, let me share some tips that I have come up with over the years that have helped me not only stay on target for the end of the year, but set myself up for a less stressful start of the next year. I usually get started around midterm of the last quarter and plan a timeline of how to do things based on my schedule. I’m pretty good at following my 6 Things to Do Today that I learned years ago, so these just get penciled onto my list over the next several days and weeks.
The first thing I do is grab my extra clipboard and set it up. I call it my “EOY/BOY CLIPBOARD” (end of year and beginning of year) and have my name written on it in case I put it down somewhere. I start with 2 sheets of notebook paper, on labeled “EOY’ and the other “BOY”. On EOY, I write down everything I can think of that I need to do for the end of the year to be able to leave for the year, but not in detail. Next, I create a thinking map of my cleaning and packing tasks and classify them so I can start working on those tasks as time allows. Finally, I find all my post-its and other idea notes for how I would do things differently for next year and start compiling those onto my BOY page so I can find them as I plan. As I go, I attach my close out checklist, my rehire letter, supply list for next year, classroom inventory, grade sheet printouts (once I finalize them), my upcoming events page from our school’s calendar, next year’s school calendar—basically anything that relates to leaving this year or starting next year. This thing is either hanging on a peg on my board or with me. It even goes home with me over the summer and I work from it as I plan for the upcoming year.
Once I have my game plan, I start working on things that won’t be obvious or that I can do in quick phases—cleaning inside my cabinets, my bookshelves or my resource closet is a great start! I can dust, clean out broken items and inventory my supplies to see what I need to order. This also means that I can leave my stuff in cabinets and it won’t be in the way of getting cleaned (I know this is not an option for some of you, but I capitalize on it since storage at home is limited). Next, I put together my supply list and get it to my team leader. Sometimes I stumble across resources I didn’t use this year, and haven’t for a while, and will set them aside to donate to another teacher that could use it. Since I have been going through a minimalism phase for the last few years, I have purged so much that I’ve been asked if I am quitting! But I have learned that I can get by with basic supplies and still accomplish all the things with my kids that I want to.
After cleaning out my resources, I then turn my attention to my décor. I wash all my artificial plants, dust all my photos, lamps and student keepsakes. I make repairs to items that need attention that are mine, as well as put in work orders for things that are school property. I may start packing some of them up but try not to do too much to draw attention to the fact that I am packing up too early. I’ve been known to overdo it on a stressful day and realize my room is end of year bare and must put things back up. In fact, I just did it this month by accident! I keep my stuff to a minimum in my room as it is but have meaningful items. I can set up my room in an afternoon and break it down in a couple of hours, but I’ll get into that in a bit.
After I clean and organize things, I turn to paperwork to close out the year. I keep a drop file for quick access to all my lesson plans and materials from the year, extra copies of assignments for grade recovery, documentation from meetings, contacts and data, as well as student portfolios. I go through these things and prepare them to go to long term files, return to the office for student records or for returning to the students. Once they are sorted, I will email to find out where and when the storage items should be delivered, but it’s usually on our end of year checklist or we get an email. I return my student portfolios about 2 weeks before the year ends. All their work for the year is kept here and they or parents can access it anytime, but it is handy for conferences and easily accessible for questions about grades. The students prefer this method and the parents can reach out with questions about assignments and I can look at it to answer, instead of hoping that it makes it home with the student—they are middle schoolers, so that doesn’t always happen.
I also prepare a survey for my students to take about the year. I break it down by each unit and refresh their memory on what we did, ask what they liked about it and what suggestion they have for improvement. It is a great chance to get ideas for lessons, especially when you know it may not have clicked with certain students. Plus, they like having a voice in feedback and realize that it helps me be a better teacher. I used to worry about the kids saying crazy things, which a few do, but most are very thoughtful and analytical and give great feedback.
Next is communications. If time allows, I will also prepare a personal note or card for each individual student. I like to give these out on the last day when I have had them write a letter to themselves upon graduation (that I seal up and they can’t open for the next four years!) and give them both. Several former students have told me that they have kept it for years after, so it makes it worth the time and effort. If I am short on time, I may only write a thank you note for gifts, students that have volunteered or been a big help to me. Finally, for any students that have been on a team or committee or club I chaired, I write a recommendation letter with my personal contact information for them to keep tucked away, tell them what it is and how to use it. Several will be applying for jobs very soon and it will save them from having to come back and me from having to recall all that they helped with. I do keep note of my helpers all year in my plan book, so it is just referencing my notes and compiling it for each student.
News flash—I don’t take very much home from my classroom at all, maybe even nothing but my clipboard! I don’t need it because I leave everything done and ready to go upon my return, or I have digital access to whatever I need. However, I do pack things up by what they are before I stash them away. I make sure my personal stuff is separated from the classroom stuff so that I can grab it quickly should a room or job changes comes up. I like clear totes so that I can see in them at a glance, and a medium sized one is easy to carry. I also make sure my name is on everything.
In the last week, I print sheets of labels with my name and room number on them. I then apply these to all the movable items in my classroom so that, if it is taken out during summer cleaning, it can get put back. If it is a personal item, like a fan or desk chair or my tubs, I also write on them in Sharpie on both the top, short and long sides, so it’s easy to see. Attaching these is something the kids can help with on the last couple of days that are done early.
Finally, I move all my digital files from my work computer onto either a portable hard drive or cloud storage, and I organize them as I go. This allows me to work from home on my computer and not have to take my work computer home. The IT person can run updates and I know it will be safe and secure. I used to always sign my work computer out and take it home—where it sat all summer since I worked from my personal computer. As for the organization of my storage, I create a folder for the school year, then a sub-folder for the subjects, then I make sure the file names have keywords for content, NOT dates, units, standards, etc., to make search parameters easier. There is nothing worse than when you have a fantastic lesson, but they swap your learning maps around and it’s in a different unit now. Lesson learned the hard way for me! I also compile a list of all my work passwords and, if I have used the same one for more than a term, I will change it before I leave to save me the headache of lockouts.
I know that may seem like a lot, but some of it won’t take very long and I often get volunteers that need hours to come and help me. That is when that thinking map of tasks or check list of things can be very helpful. Of course, they can’t help with everything, but they sure can help with several things. This also allows me to start my new school year off cleaned, organized and ready. Now, go get started—and don’t forget to take that clipboard home with you!
Find this story and more on YouTube https://youtu.be/dxaPUafdETQ
or follow me on Twitter @AddictedtoTeac1 and Facebook at Addicted to Teaching