Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sweeter Than the Beginning

“Make the end sweeter than the beginning.” These are the words a colleague said to me many years ago. These words have always resounded with me and I have never gotten them out of my mind.

To make the end sweeter than the beginning of the year.

What a thought!

This year has been quite a year. It is the first year I implemented full flexible seating, a circle meeting place, morning meeting, and a class Twitter account. It has also been a year of hands on learning, experiments, PBL, and making true connections with my students and educators around the world.
This HAS truly been my favorite year of all my 12 years. Watching my students grow throughout this year has brought me so much joy. My students have become problem solvers, explorers, they question the world, and are empathetic students who care deeply about others. 

They look for the good in everyone and they make me want to be a better person every day.

Do we have problems that arise in our class? Yes, but they don’t define us. We work through them together. Many of times it is my students now who tell me, “It’s okay Mrs. Stanton, we will figure it out.” Or “Mrs. Stanton we all make mistakes, it just gives us feedback.”

To make the year sweeter than the beginning I use May as a way to end the year on the sweetest note. I tend to get teary throughout each day, but the students never know nor do my colleagues. I get teary because I finally get to see all the soul pouring work we do each day pouring out of the students and into others. They just seem ready to fly right now and it will be my honor to let them go on that last day (May 24th).

In order to make this the sweetest ending I do a few special things to let them know they are loved.
I always do Minute to Win It with my class and we end with a paired competition at the end of the day.

I make lessons that involve their interests such as making slime, making and competing with fidget spinners, and using their favorite characters to spot light our lessons. I don’t fight these things at the end of the year instead I ask myself how I can embrace them to help my students embrace their learning.

We have a red carpet awards show to celebrate each student’s two biggest achievements both academically and socially. Watching them walk down that red carpet and make their speeches is the most special moment at the end of each year.

I create a memory book where I interview the students about their favorite memories and connections. They get to read their own answers along with their classmate’s heartfelt responses.  I add class pictures and things they loved, so they can remember their year.
As a class we sing our class song one last time at our school picnic on the lawn. Right before the parents whisk them away I pull them in a class huddle and we sing together. This year it will be, Count On Me by Bruno Mars. It reminds us that we will always be together in our hearts. As we sing the students have the biggest smiles on their faces.

At the end of the huddle I always give them an individual hug with words of encouragement. Many quickly run off to go on a date with their parents for the remainder of the day. But the longer I have been teaching, the more students choose to stay the rest of the school day.

They choose to stay with me and their class family just a little longer.
Lastly at the end of the year I remind the students AND their families that they are always welcome to our room at any time and that I am only a text/call/email away. Many of times it is an honor to see them walk back into the classroom door with their other children ready for a new kindergarten year. But the huge honor lies in the families and prior students that come through those doors to just say hello or give a hug.

I have learned that my heart is a place that is NEVER full, but always has room for one more student to love. Oh how blessed I will be next year when I get one more class to place in my heart. One more class to pray for each day, to joyfully grow with.

It is in these last days that we must truly enjoy our students. Put down the boxes to pack up and enjoy our kids. 

Yes, I repeat put down the boxes.

Go swing with your kids on the swings like they have asked of us all year, spend time eating with them at lunch to hear their summer plans, race with them down the sidewalks to hear their cheers, and just laugh with them.

This is a time when you can just enjoy being with them. It makes the ending to the year so memorable for the students, but also for us.We have worked hard all year to help them grow. This is the time we can enjoy them and see who they have become over these 10 months.

So many times at the end of the year we rush and work on the check list that is oh so long, but make sure you add on the list some time to spend with your students. Actually put it at the top of your list and throughout the list because that is why you are here in the first place, to make relationships with your students that will last a lifetime.

At the end of the year don’t be surprised when some of your students who have made the biggest gains socially or academically tend to act up. Don’t be surprised when they act different that last few weeks or even the last day. That is the child who needed you the most this year and needs you the most right now.

Spend some time giving them the extra hug, the air high five, or better yet make a hand shake with that child that no one else has! Throughout the years they can come back and do that hand shake with you. And only you and them will know it. It is this child who might be having their world rocked right now because YOU will be out of it for a few months.

Remember that.

I have to tell myself this each day during May. I have to remind myself that we have built such strong connections and that they know (even though I don’t tell them until the last week) that though those connections will always be there, they are about to change since we won’t be in the same setting each day.

Don’t be afraid to make summer plans with your students. I will be having Pizza in the Park with my students this summer. We will meet at the park to play soccer, use hula hoops, bubbles, and just play. This will be a time we will be able to talk about the great things they are doing over the summer enjoying a slice of pizza with their families. I plan this event and accept invitations for other activities with individual students in the summer because my students truly become my class family. A second family that I love.

I hope you have a beautiful end to your school year this year! In the end it is always our choice how the end of the school year goes, may your end be sweeter than the beginning. And may your summer be a refreshment that brings you to a beautiful new beginning! 

A beginning with a new class that will grow because of an impactful educator like you.
How amazing it is we get to be called educators.

Our stories are always, More Than A Lesson.  #MoreEdu

Alana Stanton is a kindergarten teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 13 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, and second grade. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.