Whether you just accepted your first teaching job or you're a veteran teacher, it's inevitable that all teachers will make a few mistakes in the classroom every now and then. It's completely normal to forget your lunch at home, to mix up your students' names, or to show up to school wearing two different shoes. But when it comes to the end of the school year, there are plenty of mistakes I wish I hadn't made.
Here are five end-of-the-year mistakes teachers make in the classroom, and how to avoid them.
1. Waiting to Organize or Clean Up the Classroom
Many difficulties arise at the end of the school year when you start to prep your classroom for the summer. But don't wait to start cleaning, organizing, or taking inventory of your classroom supplies until the very last week or day.
Instead, get your students involved in the process during the months leading up to the end of the year. Assign jobs for individual students or small groups to complete. This might include organizing books, cleaning cupboards, testing dry erase markers, or sorting supplies. This process will make your job so much easier when it's time to pack up your classroom for the summer and get ready for the next school year.
2. Trying to Make Up for Lost Time
With all the curriculum requirements, state testing, and district mandates, it can be overwhelming at the end of the school year to realize you haven't completed all of the required material with your students. It can often be difficult to let it go when questions are racing through your mind: Will my students be ready for the next grade level? Did I miss teaching them an essential standard? What did I do wrong, and where did the time go?
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These are all valid concerns. But it's important to remember that you know the needs of your students and you know what's essential for them to learn before moving onto the next grade. Rather than trying to make up for lost time, focus on the growth of your students and the relationships you established with each of them—because that's what truly matters.
3. Waiting Too Long to Celebrate Learning
Good news: learning doesn't have to be boring! So don't feel like you have to wait until the end of the year to have fun with your students or celebrate their accomplishments. As a first-year teacher, I was so focused on establishing my routines and procedures, learning the curriculum, and meeting the needs of my students that I often felt overwhelmed. This negatively impacted my teaching, and ultimately, my students.
Instead, cultivate relationships with your students throughout the year by celebrating even the smallest accomplishments. You'll be surprised at how much growth you'll see in your students when you build relationships, establish trust, and foster a love of learning.
4. Letting the Paperwork Pile Up
If you're anything like me, it's often easier to place paperwork, handouts, or master copies in piles on your desk rather than organizing and putting materials away. This might seem like an easy solution now, but it can often lead to an overwhelming end of the year when you have to pack everything up for the summer.
Don't make this mistake. Instead, make a goal after school each day to organize or store materials from one pile. Before you know it, you'll be organized and ready to go by the end of the school year.
5. Forgetting to Reflect Throughout the Year to Improve Teaching
Waiting until the end of the year to reflect on and analyze your lessons is an easy mistake to make. When I was a first-year teacher, I often found myself scrambling to remember what I wanted to change at the end of the unit or what didn't go well. Instead of trying to recall all of your mental notes about each lesson plan, it's important to continually reflect on your teaching.
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Consider a few questions after each lesson: What went well? What should I have done differently? Should I teach unit seven before unit six? Each time, jot down a few notes about the results of your lessons. This will help you plan accordingly and make the necessary adjustments when you return to the unit the following year.
The best advice I can give a first-year teacher is to avoid these simple mistakes teachers make in the classroom. Although I've learned from these mistakes, I still occasionally show up to school with two mismatched shoes. Don't worry, it's normal!