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10 Tips to End the Year with Positivity and Purpose

April 26, 2018 / by Christopher Bronke

Inevitably, when educators get to April or May, the question of “How many days are left?” is uttered frequently, and with so many different variations in tone.

There is the Freaked Out -- pure panic because “I still have so much material left to cover,” or “My kids are not ready for the AP test.”

Or the Exhausted, when this question is quietly mumbled with a tone of “I cannot do it; I won’t make it that long.

Don’t forget about the Angered, whereby one basically screams the question, with the certainty that the answer will be an unreasonable number.

At times, you might even get the Practical. This one is probably heard the least, but typically involves the initial question asked in a reflective tone and followed by a concrete plan to make it through.

And if you're lucky, you might just get the To Hell With It. A personal favorite, this educator might not even finish asking the question because he or she has just reached a point where they don’t even care anymore. It’s not that they don’t care about their job or their students, but they just don’t care, for better or worse, how many days are left.

The educational reality is that we’ve reached the time of year when you probably can see yourself in one (or more, depending on the day) of these responses. And if the weather where you are is at all like it is in Chicago this “spring,” there are probably days when you don’t even have the disposition to ask the question, because you're so annoyed by it all.

While I’m no psychological expert and certainly don’t have all the answers, I’d like to present to you ten things you can do to help make it through the rest of the year, bad weather and all, with positivity and purpose.

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1. Try Something New In Your Class

We all have that one thing (or many things) we’ve been wanting to try, but just haven’t gotten around to. So this is your chance -- give it a whirl! The excitement and energy of trying something new (and letting your students know you’re trying something new -- they love that), is a feeling that’s hard to replicate and one that can help you stay excited till the end of the year.

Short on ideas? Here are 12 great Teaching Channel resources to get the ideas flowing.

2. Co-Teach With A Colleague

You don’t have to be in an official co-teaching class to co-teach; in fact, you don’t even need to be in the same building. Recently, my friend and colleague Kristie Ennis and I have been doing some virtual co-teaching -- recording lessons together via Zoom, and even doing live, co-taught lessons using Zoom in class. Regardless of your approach, grab a friend or colleague and teach a lesson together.

Just had a blast recording Wednesday's lesson with @KristieHEnnis ...a two-teacher think-aloud exploring poetry and paintings as part of our virtually co-taught unit! #bronke3#wearedgn#99learns

— Christopher Bronke (@MrBronke) April 16, 2018

@KristieHEnnis here in class w #bronke3 today doing some virtual co-teaching on analysis of poetry and paintings to make complex claims. #wearedgn #99learns #99innovates pic.twitter.com/Oqo7TWARI5

— Christopher Bronke (@MrBronke) April 18, 2018

3. Take Time To Let The Kids Be Kids (And You Can Play, Too!)

Think about how you might take a break to play in the classroom -- or incorporate more play into school all around.

  • Play your favorite song(s) before, after, or even during class.
  • Show a YouTube video that makes you laugh (have you seen Prancercise?).
  • Read a passage from your favorite Dr. Seuss book.
  • Tell a story from when you were in high school.
  • Ask your students for their favorite song or video and share it with the class.
  • Tell a joke.

These are just a few suggestions, but be creative -- there is so much more you can do to add a bit of levity and give everyone’s brain a much-needed break. In short, don’t take life too seriously; have fun!

4. Watch A Colleague In Action

This is a great activity to do regardless the time of year, but as the light at the end of the tunnel seems dimmer than ever, go see someone you admire (or a teacher that you know all the kids love) in action. Want to really have fun? Go see someone in a department different than your own. You’ll be surprised at what you learn and how good it makes you feel to see great teaching happening -- LIVE. Watch this video for an example. 

5. Invite A Colleague To Your Class

My class, #bronke3, recently delivered their TED Talks as their year-end presentation assessment. Over the course of presenting, the superintendent, district director of innovative learning, building instructional technology coordinator, and even virtual co-teacher Kristie Ennis, all spent time coming in to see the kids in action. Opening your doors can be scary, but trust yourself because in the end, it can be a wonderfully reaffirming experience.

Great TED talks today, #bronke3 ! Thanks for letting me visit and listen. Well done! @MrBronke#99learns#99innovatespic.twitter.com/fvFBsAoVO9

— Dr. Robert E. Lang (@langroberte) April 16, 2018

6. Work With An Instructional Coach

Instructional coaches are such a great resource. This time of the year, they can be a great guide and support to helping you ensure you “get through” all the content you still have left, or a great sounding board to begin thinking about next year.

7. Survey Your Students

You can ask your students about this year or next. Let them help you figure out how to best get through the rest of the year, or get suggestions for next year before you leave for summer. In my class, we’re ending the year with a two-week, problem-based learning activity. They get to research, design, and then Shark Tank-style pitch to me their ideal classroom learning experience. I’ll take all of their suggestions into account as I plan for next year over the summer. In this video, watch how Sean McComb asks his students for feedback. 

8. Send Home Positive Notes

Nothing makes me feel quite as good as telling my families how well their kids are doing and how much I enjoy having them in class. Plus, you often times get a nice note in return. It’s a true win-win. Be sure to check out this post from Sarah Brown Wessling for some best practices when emailing parents and families.

Positive notes home #BESKINDNESSCHALLENGE1 pic.twitter.com/UIKgpiQkKR

— Leann (@lhuston14) February 2, 2018

9. See A Different Side Of The Kids

This could be taking five minutes from your lunch to walk through the student cafeteria, or stopping by their recess, or going to a game, concert, or another event after school. But take advantage of opportunities to see students having fun outside of academics.

Great turn out for some @DownersNorth bball. Regional finals! @dgNzone pic.twitter.com/gk9KLp4ibw

— Christopher Bronke (@MrBronke) March 7, 2015

10. Take A Day Off

Of course the administrative side of my job as department chair kindly asks that this not be on a Monday or Friday -- as we have a hard time getting enough subs for these spring days. However, the reality is taking a day for yourself might just be what you need. Stay in bed a bit longer, have an extra cup of coffee or a morning mimosa, play video games, catch up on the DVR, finish reading that book you've been putting off, write a poem. Whatever it is, take time for yourself -- you need it. Tch Laureate Crystal Morey once said, “Balance is not a wish.”

You Can't Pour From an Empty Cup.

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What are your strategies for ending the year with positivity and purpose? Which one of these ideas will you try? 

Topics: Professional Learning, New Teachers, Class Culture, Engagement, Strategy, Motivation, Resources

Christopher Bronke

Written by Christopher Bronke

Christopher Bronke is an English teacher and Department Chair at Downers Grove North High School, in Illinois. He teaches ninth grade honors ELA, evaluates teachers, oversees the literacy coaching program, plans and implements professional learning, and works with other district leaders on CCSS integration and implementation, common assessments, and rubrics. Christopher is an innovative literacy leader who has experience with CCSS integration across all subject areas, creating a teacher brand, blogging to empower teacher voice, collaborative and teacher leadership, literacy leadership (nonfiction, 21st-century writing, innovative creative writing instruction), and social media in the classroom. He was a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council, a Community Manager and Innovation Coach for the Redesign Challenge, and Community Manager Lead for new-ed startup Sevenzo. Christopher currently serves on the Executive Committee as a member-at-large for the Conference on English Leadership. Because of his passion for teacher voice, Chris has served on several executive planning committees for national and regional Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) convenings, and is a Co-Founder, Director, and Writing Coach for the National Blogging Collaborative, a non-profit organization that cultivates and supports the capacity of all educators to use their unique voice to elevate the craft of teaching and learning. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @Mr_Bronke.

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