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The other morning before school started, I was sitting down to organize items to go into the OSR. I like to organize everything first, and then start filing. I had two HUGE Ziplocs full of things that need to be filed. As I started to put Communications of Learning into alphabetical order and add other items in between them, I could feel my stress level rising. All of this paper! Paper is definitely a stressor for me: so much potential in things getting lost, such big piles of items to organize, and often the need for a pen to sign something … of which I never have a pen! This made me think about how stressful the end of the year can be, for educators and students alike.

  • Maybe it’s the changes in routine with the year-end trips and special school events.
  • Maybe it’s the year-end assemblies with the additional noise, lights, and even performances.This year, I’m stepping WAY out of my comfort zone and participating in a staff act at the Talent Show. We’re doing our own rendition of a Bobble Head Dance: singing, dancing, bobble heads, and performing in front of an audience … I can feel my heart beating faster even as I write this! 

This is our staff version. You can spot me in the back row, off to the left.

  • Maybe it’s the countdowns, and the realization that the year is coming to an end. This can bring about a lot of emotions all at the same time. I have never been a fan of countdowns, and while I may know how many days are left, I try not to discuss this.  
  • Maybe it’s all of the year-end tasks. There is no avoiding paper at this time of the year, and between OSR work to do and reading assessments to file, the paper is often never-ending!
  • Maybe it’s because the formal assessments are inevitable. As students get ready for the next year, the next teacher is often looking for reading assessment data and math scores. We know the benefits of pedagogical documentation, and we may be able to share portfolio work with others, but at this time of the year, scores seem to be the preference. There is always the concern of how will our children match up, and will others appreciate the growth that they have made this year? 
  • Maybe it’s because we’re saying, “goodbye.” This may mean moving schools, but it may also mean saying “goodbye” to students as they move to other classes and other schools. We’ve had a great year of building relationships with these children and their parents. It’s hard to let go!

I can’t help but think about the Five Domains, and how these stressors that span so many of them are so prominent at this time of the year. So what do we do? As my teaching partner, Paula, and I did some planning the other day, we realized how Self-Reg really dominated our thinking.

  • We are keeping with a consistent routine for as long as possible, as this helps everyone feel calm. We are even in the midst of changing dramatic play one final time, as the students were determined to make this change, so why not embrace it together?! 
  • We are bringing out more sensory options for this week — from paint to plasticine — as sensory play is a great Self-Reg option for many of our learners.
  • We are looking at how to maximize our time out in the forest (regardless of weather), as forest play is often our calmest time of the day. 
  • We are making sure that all assessments are already done, so that we do not put additional pressure (or stress) on anyone during the last week of school. 
  • We are not doing a countdown. We have heard some students mention how many days are left, but we just let these comments go. We are enjoying our last week with the children, and we are helping our children do the same.

Knowing that the end of the year can be stressful has made us more aware of our actions and more deliberate in our choices to help create a calm environment for ourselves and our students. How has Self-Reg influenced your year-end choices? What impact might this have on staff and students on this fun, but stressful, time of the year? Here’s to some great (and calm) final days of school!