June 5, 2013

It’s the End of the School Year as We Know It

Hard as it may be to believe, the school year is almost over… actually, it’s probably not that hard to believe! You are probably seeing signs of “summer fever” in your child: daydreaming, less focus on school work and more on socializing or spending time outdoors, resistance to completing tasks at home and at school. But it is important that your child end the school year well, going out on a high note rather than dashing pell-mell away from the classroom.

Education blogger and social worker Annabelle Fell feels that one of the best ways to end the school year positively is with some introspection. In a 2011 piece on the Huffington Post Canada, she lists eight questions that ask students “to take a wide-angle lens to the past year. By looking at the school year through this lens, kids can start to see the bigger picture, beyond their report cards, in order to appreciate their accomplishments and think about their challenges.” These questions are:

  1. What was the best part of the year?
  2. What was the worst part of the year?
  3. Do you have the same friends now as you did at the beginning of the year? If not, why not?
  4. Were you a good friend to your friends and were they good to you? How so? If not, is there anything you can do to change things?
  5. If you had to give one piece of advice to a kid who will be going into the grade you just finished, what would you tell her?
  6. What did you learn about yourself this year?
  7. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being GREAT, how would you rate the school year overall? Why?
  8. Is there anything that you could do differently next year to make it an even better year?

Summer reflection 3 These questions (or some age-appropriate, personalized facsimile thereof) don’t have to be treated as yet another end-of-year assessment. You could bring them up casually on the drive to or home from school or even at the dinner table. And you might want to consider asking them one or two at a time rather than all at once (particularly for younger kids) so that your child does not feel like she’s getting interrogated. Also, framing the question(s) with a statement about the fact that you are hoping to help your child end the school year on a good note can go a long way towards drawing out more thoughtful and productive responses, rather than a suspicious, “I don’t KNOW, Dad. Why are you asking me THAT?!?” If something comes up that is surprising or that you think needs further discussion, this doesn’t have to be the end of the dialogue. You can use these questions as a jumping-off-point for helping your child prepare for the upcoming year as well, and you may even be able to help her address some ongoing issues that she may have been hoping to bring up.

It’s also important to encourage your child not to “check out” during these last couple weeks of school. That means continuing to turn in work of a quality she can be proud of, sticking with lessons and tutoring and regularly scheduled activities, and not letting established habits of organization fall by the wayside.

For younger students, it’s likely their teachers will be sending home a plethora of completed work that has been collected throughout the year. For older students, they may be getting back recent projects or papers in each and every one of their subjects. Add this to the papers that may have been accumulating in their folders, binders and backpacks, and you have the potential for a virtual paper avalanche at home! Make sure that your child doesn’t just dump it all in his room, creating clutter and disorganization, by following the OHIO rule – Only Handle It Once. Take all of this paperwork and either file it or recycle it as soon as possible after it comes home.

By looking back on the dwindling school year in a thoughtful and introspective way and by making sure that good habits started during the year are maintained as it draws to a close, your child is closing the door on the current year in a positive and productive way. This will allow him to start the summer off on the right foot and be better prepared to start the process all over again in September. Have a terrific summer, and we’ll see you at Engaging Minds!