By Sarah Vander Schaaff
(note this post was modified with additional resources May 2019)
I have never liked the end of school year. It makes me feel, as I do before a thunderstorm…that things are out of my control.
There are too many changes at once: big tests, end of school year ceremonies, performances, and good-byes. As a student I dreaded the relinquishing of the books that defined so much of the school day.
As a parent, it’s the end of routine that is so hard. Of course I complain about how much time I spend in the car. That my daughter’s math homework was too challenging for me, the grown up. Since spring break, I counted down the days to summer vacation just like a nine year old. But now that the end of school year is here, I say, what was the hurry?
We are in the bumpy, weepy, agitated state of the dreaded transition. It seems to start when it’s commonly acknowledged that learning is giving way to the obligatory aspects of winding down the year and more celebrations than assignments. My family is now in the first week of summer, but far from reaching cruising altitude.
I have a plan, though, and one that you may make use of, especially, if you’re lucky enough to still be in school! Laura Weaver has a useful post on the PassageWorks Institute website, aptly titled, “Addressing Transitions and the End of the School Year.” The post may be particularly helpful for those in key transition years, i.e. moving from elementary to middle school or middle to high school. But anyone who sees adjustments as less than pleasant may benefit.
First, Weaver suggests, name the experience. “Transitions can evoke agitation, excitement, impulsive behaviors, depression, and avoidance. When we normalize this whole range of feelings and responses, students realize they are not alone in their experience and are more able to constructively work with the emotions that naturally emerge,” she writes.
Weaver also looks at how to say “good-bye” to people and to phases, and concludes with a great list of prompts that gives students a moment to reflect on where they are and where they’re going. Her first one is: “What are you leaving behind? What aspects of yourself as a student and person do you no longer want to carry with you?” There are many more, and slowing down to talk through them with my own kids may help get us through this transition a bit more gracefully.
As a teacher, I concluded one school year with a group of students by having them sit in the back of the auditorium where we’d had our drama classes. I passed a candle around (a stage-candle, the kind with battery powered illumination) and asked them to talk about their memories and plans for the summer. I would not be returning the following year to see them grow into sophomores. They knew it, and knew, too, they had their own challenges as they left the nurturing nest of freshmen year. If they thought my little candle ceremony was a bit sappy, they didn’t say it. I think it helped us all say good-bye.
Other Mindprint Resources
All students can have difficulty with transitions, but particularly those with weaker flexible thinking who have traits that make it harder to accept change. They might need help with transitions, making decisions and trying something new, all inherent to summer. Use this list of flexible thinking strategies to help you for the changing circumstances you might experience throughout the summer months.
If you need a more detailed plan to supplement for school year academics, the best bet is to get a Mindprint. It will help you better understand last year’s academic performance and the best way to prepare for the year ahead.