End The Year Strong…Your Kids Need You And Each Other

By Krystal Cerna

26 days left, but who’s counting! (unless you’re a high school teacher, then you can disregard and minus like 26 days from that number, %*[email protected]!!) As the school year comes to a screeching halt, most of us will stress over last minute assessments, inputting data, getting students to the proper reading level, completing end of the year files, and packing up classrooms (unless you’re a high school teacher! LOL). The list goes on and as each day passes, the stress level rises with the temperature outside.

Remember that we are not the only ones feeling the pressure, the anxiety and the stress of the year ending. Many of our students have made connections and have built relationships in our classrooms. The thought of leaving you is hard enough, but think about all the friends they’ve made that they won’t get to see on a daily basis after June 26th. Think about all the daily consistency and structure that they so desperately need and subconsciously crave that they will no longer have over the summer break.Take a second to digest just how exciting the summer can be, and then put yourself in the shoes of a child who loves their classmates, adores their teacher and enjoys coming to school. The thought of that coming to an end can be detrimental. So what do we do??

We love them. Sure, sometimes it’s easier said than done! But take the next 26 days to not only love your students, but to make sure they know you do! Tell them how you feel. Be vulnerable. It takes 3 seconds to tell a child you love them or that you are proud of them. It takes zero dollars to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. But the impact it makes on them is worth more than a million dollars. Don’t be afraid to show your students that you actually care about them as people. It’s not always about buying them things or bringing in prizes, it’s about how you make them feel. The ability to make a child in your class feel loved everyday costs nothing.

We let them love each other. Before we teach the curriculum, we MUST educate the heart. We are not born with the qualities to be a good person. We are taught them. We watched and mimicked our parents, observed our teachers and encountered many interactions with strangers (some good, some bad) that have all helped mold us into the people we are today. “At school our children get a taste of what the real world is like. Friendship, disappointment, discrimination, embarrassment and bullying. We have an enormous responsibility and an amazing opportunity, if we truly want to prepare them for the world outside, we must also educate the heart. Because to navigate the world outside with compassion, acceptance and tolerance,  we need to teach them compassion, acceptance, and tolerance.” (Educate the Heart, Shane Koyczan)  

Give them ample opportunities to build those qualities. Then let them practice, A LOT! I was blessed with ten ELLs this year who not only challenged me to use my native language, but forced me to think outside the box each and everyday.

I struggled.

A lot.

But when I needed a translator, I asked my students for help. When one of them was struggling due to our language barrier, the rest of them stepped up. Eventually, it became second nature. I gave them plenty of opportunities to practice helping me, but in turn, they were helping each other. This has formed such a family unit of caring, kindness and unity. Now, more than ever, is the most important time in the school year to let your students demonstrate their compassion for each other.

We enjoy them & have fun. Seize the moment! Now is the time to have some fun! Get outside, play and laugh. Be silly, joke around and let the kids see you having some fun! Believe me, you won’t turn to stone!! Laughing with your students is probably one of the best things you can do for them. They’re not having fun if you’re not having fun! After completing a Science unit on Force, a fellow teacher let me borrow her laundry baskets to have the students sit in them and have races incorporating push and pull forces. After each child got a turn being dragged around the classroom, pulling or pushing a laundry basket and cheering on their classmates like it was the Superbowl, all eyes were on me. It was as if they had all secretly teamed up and orchestrated this mastermind plan to put me in the laundry basket. So, of course I did. Because at the end of the day, these are the moments that they will remember. These are the moments that make a difference. These are the moments that build connections, build relationships and foster a love for school and learning.

We capitalize. Instead of thinking what we could’ve done better this year (typical teacher thoughts), take a moment to write down (or just allow yourself time to think about) all the things you did RIGHT! The progress each child made, the boundaries they overcame, the small moments they shared with you and their classmates and the amazing growth they made since September. No literally, isn’t it amazing how much they have grown?!? I can’t believe how tall my babies have gotten in nine months. I always say I am going to do a measurement wall and take their height as they enter K, in the middle of the year, and as they leave me in June. (I really gotta get on that). It is amazing to watch them now as they navigate the classroom on their own, problem solve and look to each other for advice. They no longer need me to guide them every step of the way. I am overwhelmed with pride and joy as I release the reins and observe my kindergartners become independent students in charge of their own learning. There really is no better feeling.

We reminisce. As I think back to the beginning of the year (the first day actually), I can vividly remember walking what felt like 22 crying, blind, deaf, and drunk little people into my classroom. Fast forward through October-December, when the days are shorter and the wine glass is bigger, and I can not believe all of the things I have learned about each and every child in my room.Yes, you read that correctly. All of the things that I have learned!!

I have learned that they love to dance (especially to Milkshake on GoNoodle), they really like spaghetti and meatballs (in a hot dog bun), they have each called me mom at least five times this year (then laughed hysterically about it), their favorite song right now is Happier by Marshmallo ft. Bastille, they are obsessed with Elephant and Piggie, they are the quietest class in the hallway and they’re the funniest group of kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching.   

Final thoughts, from a kindergarten teacher.

Laugh – every.single.day.

Enjoy the hell out of your students; your time with them is limited. A high school teacher once said, we have the best job in the world. We have the hardest, most rewarding (most tiring) job in the world. Remember to stop and smell the roses. It’s not always about jamming curriculum down their throats. It’s ok to enjoy how far they’ve come. It’s ok to feel proud, you’ve earned it, shit- they’ve earned it! Most importantly, go out with as much enthusiasm as the first day of school.  

Be responsible for the energy YOU bring to the space- every.single.day. (Set the Stage to Engage, NR PD)

Krystal Cerna is a Kindergarten Teacher in the North Rockland Central School District at West Haverstraw Elementary School. She is also the co-founder of the Talkative Teachers. Follow Krystal on Twitter @kinder_krys and The Talkative Teachers @TalkativeTeach4

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