Here in Australia we’ve just started our final term for the year. It can be truly overwhelming with the number of events and things to do. Throw in commitments outside of work and it’s even crazier. To avoid the madness and keep your sanity, follow these tips from a seasoned expert! Yes, I did just call myself an expert – 10 years of teaching and 18 years as a parent qualifies me I think!
Diaries – whether you use a digital or hard copy diary, all events need to be diarised. Not just events though, enter reminders like report writing timelines or actions to be followed up.
Look at your diary multiple times a day. I’m a really organised person and usually on top of everything. However, Term 4 is chaotic, especially when you are a parent too. It becomes too hard to try and keep everything in your head so I have to look at my diary daily to remember.
Commitments – have a good hard look at your commitments. Can you toss some? Often it’s impossible to do this at work, but sometimes our personal lives need to compromise. Can those you live with step up and do a few of your normal tasks? (Promise to pay them back of course!) In report writing weeks, try not to book in too many commitments.
Me time – don’t let go of what makes you happy and healthy. Walking the dog, quick drink with friends, a sleep in or movie can restore your energy, reinvigorating you for the week ahead.
Report writing – I usually enjoy writing reports but the trick is to be organised. Collecting all your data well in advance is essential, as is setting aside large blocks of time. It is often too difficult to write at school, so unfortunately writing in your own time is better. I always aim to finish at least a week before the due date to avoid stress and panic. This way you also have time to reread and make minor edits before they are proofread by others.
Classroom pack up – December 1 is the day I set aside to begin setting up classroom Christmas decorations. Prior to this I’ve been slowly taking down posters, displays and children’s work that is no longer needed. The walls are pretty blank when I set up the Christmas stuff. I also get the children to set it up, especially if they are in grades 3-6.
I never want to be stuck at school on the last day packing up my room so I do heaps in advance. If I’m moving rooms I’ve already boxed up and labelled resources I will not need in the last couple of weeks. Toss out stuff you think you won’t use again. Don’t be a hoarder! In the final two weeks there’s less curriculum requirements, meetings and planning. I use the time that was usually set aside for these things to file resources (both digital and hard copy) and to pack or tidy.
In the last week of school I get the children to go through their tubs/desks/bag boxes and cull. Any rubbish needs to be thrown out and they can take home all items except a pencil case, novel and one book for writing. That means on the last day of term they are not loaded down.
I have a fun auction of items lost throughout the year that no one has claimed and I even include displays or posters no longer needed. It’s amazing what kids will take home!
During the last weeks you often receive presents from kids. I make sure I take them home each night so on the last day of school I’m not lugging bag after bag to the car. A little bit each day helps.
On the last day the children and I take down the Christmas decorations and pack them away for another year. They come down in no time!
The last couple of days can have an hour here and there dedicated to cleaning and tidying. I try and do this early so the last day of school is not spent doing this. I’d rather spend time with my students and play games (and unwrap all those mugs).
Food – I’m a health nerd. In December there is event after event, all based around food (and alcohol). I make sure I exercise everyday and I often eat my own healthy food before the event so I’m less tempted. Indulge, but don’t overindulge regularly.
Children’s gifts – It’s a nice gesture to give your students a parting gift. This is where preplanning is essential. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. Shop before December and have it all packaged ready. When downball was all the rage I managed to buy 100 balls (for the whole year level) at a heavily discounted price and we wrote their names on them in permanent texta. That was a winner gift and no wrapping required as we bounced them to them!
I like to write each child (and sometimes parents) an individualised card. To manage this I write them over a week, just three or four at a time so I don’t go mental.
Colleague gifts – Will you buy anything for colleagues? Which ones? Budget? Again, preplanning is ideal. I like to bake so making something yummy and packaging it nicely is a lovely gesture. It doesn’t break the bank and looks like you’ve made some effort. Write your cards and package in advance and distribute the day before the last day (to avoid them being overloaded with packing up their car!!)
Thank you notes – Throughout the year some parents and staff have helped you in some extra way. It’s a kind gesture to recognise their efforts. A bottle of wine or a thank you card will keep you in their good books!
Lists – Finally, lists are essential. In December I have a daily list that I must complete to keep on top of everything I need to do. I try to cross everything off (it’s so satisfying) and then transfer those jobs not done to the next day. That way you won’t forget anything or let anyone down.
What other tips do you have to avoid end of year madness as a teacher?