End of School Year Paperwork is Done!
Special educators are constantly working on documents for their students. There are IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), FBAs (Functional Behavior Assessments), BIPs (Behavior Intervention Plan), NOREPs (Notice of Recommended Educational Placement), re-evaluations, and so much more! Each of these are educational documents that are written for students in special education to determine their needs, outline goals and objectives for instruction, and provide information about interventions and supports the student needs to be successful in the classroom. The last thing that you want to do at the end of the year is forget to complete a document. Another thing not to forget is to revise an IEP for the upcoming school year or for extended school year if your students attend. It can cause stress on you next year, the new teachers the student may work with, the family, and the student also.
Sometimes, we have last-minute conversations with families who want to make a change to an IEP for the upcoming year. This could be based on moving to a new school, building, or program. Make sure that you have those documents ready to work for students to meet their needs before you pack your classroom up for the year. Then anyone that picks up that IEP document can have a great start to providing the services that student needs!
Reflecting on the End of the School Year
First, think about what worked and didn’t work in your classroom this past year. Perhaps a center you had dreamed up just didn’t keep the students engaged like you hoped. Maybe you used a great morning activity that you would love to continue into the next year. You may have learned about a great way to communicate with parents during the year but didn’t have the time or materials to start it up. But now, that you have some time off you want to implement it for the upcoming year. I love taking all these types of ideas and putting them in a list or simple chart to evaluate and figure out ways to get better.
All of this is perfect to start thinking about at the end of the year. Even if you don’t know where you will be teaching there are some strategies and ideas that lend themselves well to tons of types of teaching roles. I’ve moved to different positions in my career but, I still have core values and routines that have stuck with me along the way.
Helping Families Prepare for the Summer
As teachers, we should also have a goal of communication and providing support to families no matter what time of year it is. When it’s the end of the year we often think that we just need to say goodbye but there is so much more we could do to help!
As a parent myself, I know I am always looking for something to provide my children structure during the summer. It makes things run better when everyone knows the schedule and routine. As a teacher, I like to provide families that support with ideas of things they can do with their children in the summer. Many parents are concerned that their child will lose skills over the summer and look to me as their teacher to have information that can help. Some things I like to provide or help with are:
- Create example summer schedules as a checklist or provide the visuals to make them!
- Provide a list of fun activities in your town to do (field trip ideas, public library events, volunteering, camps, etc.)
- Make a list of educational websites used in the classroom during the school year to practice skills.
- Provide materials to work on over the summer (worksheets, books, etc.)
- Compile a list of life skills activities families can work on over the summer with step-by-step instructions (washing the dishes, getting dressed, putting away laundry, etc.)
Each of the items listed can be simply shared with families or if you have the time you can provide some of the materials needed. This could be printing the visuals for the schedule, providing printed worksheets, or a list of life skills activities as suggestions. Most of the families I have worked with in the past loved if I could give them easy actionable ideas with little preparation on their part. I’d save these lists and use them year after year.
Use Your Resources Carefully
Do you get reimbursed for the materials that you buy for your classroom? All the lamination, Velcro, and dry-erase markers that you might have spent your own money on. If so, it’s time to make sure that you have compiled all the receipts and you’ve been compensated. Not every district will do this, or they may only do it for a certain amount, but if you are lucky you should be sure to use it.
Do you get reimbursed for college classes or training you paid to attend earlier in the school year? Make sure you are getting that information into your school’s business department. They will get you back the money you invested to grow professionally that you are owed. Many schools do this because they want to support their teachers in learning new skills and techniques to benefit those students in the district. Check your teacher contract (if you have one) to see if this is something you can take advantage of.
Another great idea is if you get a budget for your classroom spend all that money. Don’t let the dollars you receive go to waste. Even if you use an idea you have for the next year to get supplies now. Remember the reflection I told you to do? And that new idea you wanted to try in your classroom? Use those extra dollars to buy the folders, book shelf, or flexible seating options you’ve always wanted!
Did you get gift cards from parents that showed you appreciation during the holidays or teacher appreciation week? You can look for ways to spend this money to better your classroom for next year. Whether it’s getting a new carpet for your morning meetings or buying new caddies for your supply stations. At the end of the year we often may notice some items are worn out and need replacing. That money our families provided us with can come in handy to support future classes.
Taking care of your staff
It’s crucial to make sure you are showing the people that help you run your classroom some appreciation. I try to make a habit of this several times a year and not just at the end but sometimes things get busy. Instead of looking then for what you need have it in the back of your mind all year. Every time you go to a store check out the clearance, gift, or school supply sections. You can find some great deals on items that come in handy as gifts for paraprofessionals, co-teachers, or even student teachers!
Once I have those items I have a bin of gifts I keep in my teacher closet. It’s a milk crate with sticky notes, fun pens, thank you cards, word search books, small candles, and other stuff! I’m sure you can think of more things than I could, especially if you know what those people like. I often will have my staff complete a survey at the beginning of the year. It gives me an idea of what they like so I know what to look for as gifts!
Just remember this quote from Francis Flinn: “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”
Sometimes, it’s the little things after a long stressful school year that can make a person feel appreciated. I try to always take the time to show the people that devote so many hours of their day supporting my classroom the respect they deserve. I find that a positive note, and gift can go a long way.
Pack up with next year in mind
The daunting task of packing the classroom up can be so overwhelming for teachers. You spent all year getting the room to work for you, your staff, and your students. I think of the classroom library, the bulletin boards, the anchor charts, and so much more that needs to be safely put away. Many teachers have to pack up but also remember where you put them when you come back in the fall.
In my first few years of teaching, I made a mistake. I would just throw anything in a box close by with no rhyme or reason. Then I would come back during the summer to unpack and hate myself. Yes, are we all on the struggle bus at the end of the year and just want to get things packed up quickly? Of course! But, the problem with that is you are setting yourself up for failure when you come back in the fall.
My suggestion is to try to keep like items together that you know are going to be used together in the next year. So I try to have tubs that either are based on like items OR that are for certain times of the school year. For example, I have a "back to school" tub where I keep copies of welcome letters, information cards, bulletin board pieces, read-aloud books, and easy tasks for my students. It’s everything I use in the first month of school in one place that is easy to get to. Anything related to the things I might teach in that first month such as classroom rules, building classroom community, and teaching classroom routines. This saves me hours of spinning in circles trying to find the things I need.
In conclusion, there is no perfect way to end the school year. I’m sure every teacher could give you different ideas and points of view on what is the best thing to do. But, these ideas have always been ones that have given me positive outcomes when ending the year, and going into the fall to start a new one. I hope these can help you feel less stressed about the end of another school year and let you look forward to a summer break that you deserve!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenn Adams is a special education and elementary teacher living and work in Pennsylvania. She has taught in multiple classrooms, grade levels and settings including regular education, special education, and alternative education. She has taught grades Pre-K, 1st, and 5th-12.Currently, Jenn works for a public cyber charter school teaching students in grades 5th through 8th in an autistic support virtual classroom. Jenn obtained her Bachelor's degree in elementary and early childhood education in 2007 from Millersville University. She also obtained her Master’s degree in 2014 in special education from Saint Joseph’s University. Jenn also added the credentials of becoming a registered behavior technician (RBt) working closely with students with autism and intellectual disabilities working with principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Lastly, Jenn is currently pursuing her principal’s certificate from California University of PA. In her 14 years in education she truly has found that building relationships is what needs to come first and loves learning new ways to reach her students. During her time not spent in the classroom Jenn conducts parent training with colleagues in the special education field and provides information through her blog, website, and social media channels all called Teach Love Autism. Jenn also works hard every day to find a work and life balance and believes that is the key to happiness in doing what you love.
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