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End Of Year Rituals For Teachers and Students
Judi Fenton

At the end of the school year both students and teachers begin to feel a bit unsettled. The preference sheets are in, the tentative organization sheet is out, yet none of us are truly secure in what the next school year will look like for us. New teachers, especially, grapple with issues of job security, grade and classroom assignments, or the possibility of being excessed to another school or district. At the same time, there is a lot of end of year celebrating going on. How can you reconcile the insecurity and the festivity?

End of year rituals can help. I always look forward to the end of the school year, not only for the impending summer days to be spent on vacation with my own children, but also because I have so much fun with the rituals. Our school rituals included a class picnic, presentations of personalized books made for each student, visits with the students’ next year teachers, and a family celebration.

Each year, my prekindergarten class goes through the same end of year rituals—rituals that are comforting to me, to my students, and their families. Endings are hard, and it is interesting that teaching, a career which nurtures such strong relationships with students, also requires goodbyes each year. To help all of us accept these goodbyes, there are an unlimited number of rituals that you can make your own. Here are some ideas:

  • Invite all your students’ families in for an end of year celebration. In addition to all the food, one of the things I used to do at our celebration was to say an accomplishment or an area of growth for each child in my class. This was nice for several reasons: it pushed me to reflect upon how each of the students in my class grew over the year; it showed the parents that their child had made progress that was recognized; and the kids loved hearing about themselves and being recognized for their accomplishments. With older students, you could involve them in the process, asking them to reflect on how they grew over the year.
  • Have your students do a culminating presentation or project. Some schools have students do exit projects, some portfolio presentations. They are opportunities for students to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the year and apply it, and to show that they are ready to move on to the next level, be it middle school, or high school, or high school graduation. However, these demonstrations also serve another purpose—closure for the students and their teachers.
  • Make a class tape or CD of songs that are meaningful to the class: When my daughter was in second grade, her teacher had a song of the week; each week there was a different song that the kids listened to all week and learned. At the end of the year, she made her students a CD of all the songs of the week. My daughter loves her CD; the songs remind her of second grade and her wonderful teacher.
  • Read an amazing book and then take your class to see the movie: Last year it was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, this year it’s Holes, but you can also read and rent. How about To Kill a Mockingbird, or A Little Princess, or The Wizard of OZ, or Charlotte’s Web, or several versions of Romeo and Juliet, or at least three versions of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, or …
  • Make a Class Scrapbook: I took tons of photos of my students and always got double prints. We used the photos, along with student drawings and writing and class artifacts, to make an individualized scrapbook for each child. Color copies are wonderful for this.
  • Have your students do a self-evaluation of their learning and write a letter to you about what they learned in your class: Make up a template to ask the questions you want your students to reflect on. Find out what they liked to learn about most and why, what they liked doing least and why, and how they feel they’ve grown most this school year.

These are just a few ideas from endless possibilities for end of year rituals. Finding some of your own can help you and your students feel a little bit more focused and grounded at this crazy time of endings.

 

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