Commentary Summer Send-Off: One More Memory to Close the School Year
My favorite scene of every high school movie ever is when the term is over, and everyone celebrates the arrival of summer vacation. Students running in a frenzy through the halls, throwing papers and notebooks behind them (off to a carnival, if it's Grease), while teachers lean back in their chairs and breathe a huge sigh of relief that another school year has come to a close. And even though we never blanketed our own hallways in a blizzard of old essays and tests back during my own high school days, I remember that feeling of finality—of closure—that came with the last day of school, and the warm promise of the summer months.
Everyone deserves to have that experience. Especially high school seniors, who should be anticipating all the pomp and circumstance of their graduation right now: mortarboards, tassels, clapping relatives, and a speech from the valedictorian about how everyone in the class of 2020 is a butterfly. Or unicorn. Or a rising star.
This year is different. Sure, there'll be some celebrating as summer arrives. But for students, there are no hallways to run through with friends, no yearbooks to sign. And for teachers, there's no final moment to pause and let your students know that that you're proud of them, and what they accomplished this year.
It may not always seem like it, but students feel connections to teachers, just as we are connected to them. And yes, they may even miss us a little when the year is over. So now is a good time to let them know what they mean to you. You may not all be able to celebrate the end of the school year together, but you can still give your students something memorable to send them into the summer.
- The Final Class Email
When you send out a "Have a great summer, see you next fall" class email, call out some of the highs and lows of the year. Identifying great work done by a few individual students will make others feel snubbed, so instead, point out the projects and experiences that were memorable: the collective highlights and lowlights. The books or films that inspired them. The projects that started off intimidating, but that enabled students to create something they were proud of. Even the inside jokes that inevitably happened during the year.
- Individual Communication
While long letters to each individual student may not be possible, short ones may be. Even a couple sentences, copied and pasted, and with one personal addendum at the end, sent to students separately, can make everyone feel acknowledged, and special.
Many teachers were required to fast-track their own learning when it came to technology this spring; if you're one of them, show your students what you learned by putting together a short video to say goodbye. Film yourself in any location you like, or even in front of a fun backdrop ("Whoa! Ms. Sanders is in outer space!"), add some epic music, and end the year on a cinematic note as you bid your class farewell.
- Digital Class Party
Social distancing doesn't have to mean scrapping an end-of-the-school-year celebration. Whether you throw it on Zoom, Google Hangouts, or any other online meeting platform, remember the rule: if you throw a good party, people will come. Play some music, organize a couple online games (Charades anyone?), and you'll be surprised how many students log on to see you and their classmates. A fun summer send-off, and a nice memory to cap off the year.
Your class management platform can be your space to tell your students that you appreciate them, especially after being unable to see them in person for the last part of the school year. Students may sometimes keep their feelings close to the vest… but knowing that you're thinking of them will give them an end-of-the-year memory to rival even the most sentimental high school movie.
Taylor, Seth. "Summer Send-Off: One More Memory to Close the School Year." ABC-CLIO Solutions, ABC-CLIO, 2020, educatorsupport.abc-clio.com/Support/Display/2248000?cid=156. Accessed 13 July 2020.
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