When the checkout isn’t just in the supermarket

I burst into tears today, my amazing and talented co-worker saw that I was struggling and asked what she could do. I didn’t know what was wrong, all I knew was that in Week 7 of Term 4 my students all of a sudden forgot how to student – in a BIG way.

What did I do wrong? Did I assess my student’s ability incorrectly on the reports? How could I have misjudged their abilities so very bad? Her response stuck with me – they have checked out! Of course they have checked out! It’s almost the end of the school year and they have been on this earth for 6 years – I have socks older than that!

Here are my 5 strategies to survive the end of the year “checkout”.

Teach Them Well

We might have written, edited and uploaded our reports in Week 5, but that doesn’t mean we stop teaching the students. I always use this time as a tool to ensure that they are still being engaged in the learning opportunities being offered to them. I plan my mathematics specifically in Term 4 to assist with this. We investigate and explore the more hands on elements of measurement and change and data. In the hot weather we use water and when it “accidently” spills that’s okay! In our class we don’t do end of term ‘busy work’ but try to incorporate the ‘festive season’ into the learning opportunities. One of my favourite English outcomes to cover at the end of the year is persuasive text style letter “Why I should get presents this Christmas.” Of course some people and schools can’t cover the festive season, so keep that in mind when planning. We also write procedures on “dressing the Christmas tree” which is always fun because Mrs Davis is a little OCD when it comes to dressing her tree! Continue to plan and prepare – failure to plan is a plan for failure!

I also take the opportunity to look at the curriculum for the next year and see about exposing the students to new outcomes in areas that I feel they struggle a little with. This is not about teaching them new outcomes, simply exposing them to the world that is coming up, preparing them for success in the future. The good old saying of “Oh this is Year 1 work” or similar always gets a rise out of my smaller people of the school. Remember, teaching in the last few weeks of Term 4 can be the hardest of all! Be prepared and plan well!

Take a note from the Scouts – Be Prepared

One of the things that I find happens living in regional and remote communities is the influx of the visitors to the town and therefore the school. The early checkout of the parents who decide to take extra week’s holidays and the illness that always seems to find the staff resulting in mixes classes. (Fairly limited relief teachers in the bush!)

So you need to be prepared – having extra copies of work that you can give to the new students or the combined classes is always handy. Prepare yourself for students who have checked out to increase their behaviours in class and prepare you for the end of the year chaos. Regarding behaviours, my goal post and expectations for behaviours is the same on day one of the year all the way to the last day of the year. If you give an inch, students (tired ones at that) will take a mile, so be prepared with extra engagement activities and brain breaks that will keep them going!

Some of my favourite brain breaks is “Egg, Chicken, Tiger” and “Do this, Do that”.

Egg, Chicken, Tiger is a good old paper scissors rock game. Everyone starts as an egg (with their hands on their heads like an egg). They find another egg and battle. The winner turns into a chicken, complete with flapping wings and the other person stays as an egg. This progresses on to a tiger, dinosaur and finally a human. The humans sit down and in the end, regardless of how many students you have (over 5) you will always have 1 egg, 1 chicken, 1 tiger, 1 dinosaur and a whole heap of humans in the end.

Do this, Do that is basically like Simon Says, except with the words “Do this” and “Do that”. The leader stands up and does an action with the word “Do this”. The group follows you with all the actions, unless the leader says “Do that”. In that case if the group follows the leader they are out. The game gets faster and faster, if you don’t keep up you’re out. Just a bit of quick fun for body movement and re-engagement in the lesson. What are your go to brain breaks?

Mind your Mindset

Smile Teachers talk a lot about mindset and what mindset you carry. I often find myself reverting to a fixed mindset when stress gets to me. I go from being in a positive growth mindset to one of doom and gloom. So when I feel like I’ve started to checkout, or my students have, we “Mind our mindset” and we go back to basics. We revise what helps us grow our mindset through games and activities in class. We revisit our goals and the vision of the word yet.

The power of the positive mind and growth mindset allows us all to check back in. Every day I put a quote of some kind on my whiteboard. The vast majority of my students can’t read the words, but the adults and more importantly, I can. A reminder that today is just one of several hundred thousand that will come and go but to make each day count for something. Kid President (YouTube him!) really gets to the point of what you can do! My whiteboard quote for today is one of his “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody!” Small additives to your day to remind you that you make a difference.

I also ask mindset questions of my students. Questions like “What did you do today that made you think hard?” or “What will you do to challenge yourself today?” as exit tickets for the breaks and home time. I also set “homework” like persevering with a challenge and tell me about it tomorrow.

Check out SmileTeachers Mindset Manoeuvre PL and tell your admin or team leaders about how we can check in with ourselves before we checkout!

Self-Care Sun….. EVERYDAY!

My last strategy to help check in when everyone has checked out is self-care. But why leave it to a Saturday or a Sunday? Practice self-care every day. Something small to start or larger if you feel the need. A walk in the bush, pressing buy now on an internet order, a bath with bubbles, sit in the sunshine, water the garden, phone a friend. Something every day leading up to the end of the year will help you survive.

I also love to practice some self-care with my students at this time of the year. If a student has finished their task, instead of adding more to their load, I offer them a selection from a self-care or relaxation bundle of strategies. Of course it’s hard with duty of care to say go sit in the sunshine and grab some vitamin d. But I have pillows, mindfulness colouring, QR library reading books and quiet corners for students to recharge and take a moment.

When everyone around you seems to have checked out – it’s time to check in. With yourself, your family, friends and loved ones.

1. Teach them well

2. Be Prepared

3. Mind your mindset

4. Self-Care everyday

Notice that I had 5 strategies at the start and now that you’re at the end of the blog there are only 4? That’s because I would love for you to add your own to my list and then share it with a colleague or myself! I’d love to hear what you do when the checkout happens!

Be happy – Teach Well

Kristine Davis

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