Celebrating Your Students’ Growth

I’m finding it hard to exercise optimism these last few days. The racist violence in Buffalo (NY), the ongoing war in Ukraine, a deadly shooting at a nearby crowded park, the country’s divisiveness and the never-ending pandemic challenges, keep my heart heavy. There is a lot going on.

I was fortunate to connect with other moms from the anti-racist parent group at my children’s school this week. Although the conversation was difficult, we all felt better afterwards. Having spaces for healing and connection is necessary, both for adults and for children. If you plan on discussing the violence in Buffalo with students, check out this resource from LiberatED.

This is all happening while educators are trying to wrap up the year and everybody in schools is feeling rushed, tired, overwhelmed… and just plain done.

And this has not been an average school year. Coming back to school after distance learning has been more challenging than we had imagined, and the toll on educators’ emotional health is real, with 55 percent of educators thinking about leaving the profession, according to a National Education Association (NEA) survey. 

Given the exhaustion and overwhelm teachers are experiencing, is there something they can do? Yes.

For themselves

Once the school year is over, educators should take their well-deserved break, recharge, and (re)consider how to manage the stress and challenges of teaching in a pandemic world. To support them, I am coming to the rescue with a new resource. After working with educators all year and realizing the need for more individualized help, I decided to create an online course to support teachers develop their HEART skills, so they can breathe some Iife back into themselves, and feel the JOY, passion, creative spark, and purpose they used to feel (and loved). Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement and make sure that you are signed up to the newsletter for early-bird discounts!

For their students

From an SEL perspective, the last few weeks of school are a great time to celebrate students’ accomplishments and growth during the year, academically as well as socially and emotionally. Giving students an opportunity to reflect on the math concepts they learned, the art projects they developed or the new relationships they formed during the year will give them (and you) a sense of accomplishment and a positive perspective on everything you were able to do as a learning community.

Try the following activities from Responsive Classroom to reflect on the school year.

Group Reflections

The goal is to generate and chart the learning of the year. Students can create large charts for each subject (elementary school) or each section/topic in your content area (middle and high school).

Step 1. Individuals Think, Write, Remember. Give students 10 min to remember everything they can from one subject and have them create individual lists (it should include concepts, and also skills).

Step 2. Pair Share. Students work with a partner and merge their lists.

Step 3. Whole Class Discussion. Create a collective list that reflects everybody’s input.

During this exercise, you will often observe students getting excited as the list becomes longer. Observe: what are your students’ best memories for a given subject? What are the activities/projects that they remember the most? Leave the chart in the classroom and encourage students to keep adding to the list during the following weeks.

In addition to chart the learning for major subjects, do the same exercise for your social and emotional learning. Did you teach students about conflict resolution? Did you discuss how to work well with a partner? Did you give them metacognitive skills to think about their learning? Those are all concepts and skills that should be remembered and displayed!

Individual Reflections

As discussed in an earlier post, reflection is an essential part of learning. Give students time to think, write or do an art project that shows something they learned this year. You could use some of these prompts:

  • Describe something you were proud of accomplishing and tell why it was important.
  • Illustrate your favorite classroom project.
  • Describe a challenging situation that you were able to resolve.
  • Describe a new friendship for you this year.
  • List your favorite books and describe what they made you think about.
  • Describe something you learned this year that will help you in the future.

The last few weeks of the school year are a challenging time for students and teachers. You are almost done! Finish the year strong by taking time to celebrate your students’ growth and reflect on the classroom’s accomplishments.

Remember that students’ learning was possible because of your hard work and dedication!

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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