Simple suggestions for beating the year-end stress and closing out the school year.
The principal wants your data from the entire year. Next week. Your evaluator wants to complete their final observation. Tomorrow. Every parent suddenly wants to know what their child can do to bring up their grade. Today. The custodial staff wants you to clean everything out of your classroom. And label it. By Friday. Your students are bouncing off the walls and driving you crazy.
Welcome to the end of the school year.
No matter where you teach, what grade, subject, or school, you will experience this end-of-year insanity. How can you deal with it and stay sane?
Know that you are not alone
Year-end stress and silliness is normal in schools. Unlike in other industries, everything around you has the same endpoint. Once summer break starts, the year is over. This means everyone in the building and district, from students to superintendents, must meet the exact same deadlines. Many people will be crankier and have less patience. Understanding this can really help you sympathize with others, including your students, and help you defuse situations that escalate due to short tempers and stress.
Be open with your students
Openly acknowledging my stress helps them understand and behave better. On particularly trying days, I start class with “I know I’m more short-tempered than normal today. I just want you to be aware so you understand it’s not personal.” Sometimes they will ask questions; I answer when appropriate and tell them I can’t when not appropriate. But, it means they are prepared for me to be less tolerant, and they behave.
Realize students feed off adults
Stressed adults lead to stressed children. Add in the excitement of nicer weather and the impending summer break, and students are bouncing off the walls. Short-tempered teachers can quickly escalate situations, so letting students know upfront that today is a particularly bad day to act out can be very helpful. Remember, the students are also getting deadlines as the end of the year approaches: things like final exams and end-of-year grades. Some also will be worried about life issues like where they will find breakfast and lunch during summer break. Empathy is important during this time of year.
Change the setting
We all know exercise is a great de-stressor, so add movement into your lessons. Can your class go outside on a nice day? Do it. Just sitting outside for silent reading can dramatically lower stress. Instead of trash can basketball review, use laundry baskets and real basketballs outside. Any movement helps—you and your students.
With your space under control you’ll be ready to prioritize and deal with everyone else. Keep breathing. Remember, “this too shall pass.”