As a colleague once said, the end of a calendar year or school year never gives educators a chance to wind things down. It’s more like running as fast as you can towards the edge of a cliff, where the number of things you have to do grows every day, requiring you to run faster and faster just to keep up. When the last day of school is over, there is this momentary feeling of bliss, because you realize time is up, and you don’t have to run any more—but then you look back at everything that didn’t get done, and you go into emotional free fall.
That doesn’t have to happen this year. With a few days left before the last bell rings, take a minute to take care of your students—and yourself—with these simple strategies:
Take care of the logistics. No one likes to come back from break with a long list of phone messages and e-mails from parents and students asking for basic information— the link to that Web site you mentioned in a career presentation, the School Code to register for the ACT, the name of that article about effective communication with relatives over the holidays.
Find five minutes to write down every post-holiday question or concern you’ve come back to in past school years, and write down the answers to those questions. That’s the content of a newsletter you e-mail to all parents, students and faculty, and post on your Web site—then include that Web link on your e-mail Auto Reply, and put it on your outgoing voice message. Not everyone who calls or e-mails over the holidays will help themselves, but this gives them every chance to try—and sends the clear message that you want to help them, even when you’re not there.
Take care of your clients. The newsletter offers blanket advice to clients making inquiries, but the clients you’re seeing on a regular basis require support more tailored to their individual needs. Now is the time to review the lesson plans for your counseling groups and the notes from your meetings with high-needs students. At your last meeting before the holidays, set aside five minutes to talk about the articles, community-based resources, and coping strategies they have access to while school is closed. It may even be wise to talk about the strategies students have used when faced with challenges over a weekend, or when you were away at a conference. Showing them how they can take care of themselves affirms their understanding that you see them capable of taking care of themselves; that in itself goes a long way to making their December break manageable and enjoyable.
Ask for help. Long school breaks can often be a time of anxiety for students who are otherwise very much in control of their lives. Without the day to day activities of school, some students become overly focused on pending college decisions, struggles with relatives they only see at the holidays, or a self-perceived lack of growth and achievement this past year.
It’s impossible to keep an eye on every student during the last days of school, so call on your peers for support. A quick e-mail to teachers will give them the direction they need to guide students to you who may be approaching the season with some unusual angst—and you’d be amazed how reassuring that e-mail will be to the teachers, too.