Discover more from Read by Example
Beyond Self-Care: How to Manage Our Energy and Ensure a Joyful End to the School Year
This guest post comes from Ryanne Deschane. Ryanne currently teaches a 1st-2nd grade multi-age classroom for the Wausaukee School District (Wausaukee, WI). She also serves as President-Elect of the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA). Ryanne has contributed articles to this space in the past. In this post, she offers readers practical wisdom on how to make the best of these final days of the school year, for ourselves as well as for our students.
I begin this post by admitting this year has been hard. It continues to be hard. And for some bizarre reason, knowing that the end is just a few short weeks away rather than experiencing a sense of relief, I am struck with a mixture of anxiety and loss.
Anxiety at the fear of not having had enough time to ensure the kids have met all the demands imposed upon us by district and state mandates, testing, common core standards, and grade level expectations.
Loss because, as so many teachers can relate, some students require more of my time and energy which leaves less for other students.
And yet in the same breath, loss because I have had this group for two years - we have become a family that I love dearly and I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of, despite the exhaustion I feel on a daily basis.
Sounds a bit crazy right? Yet I know I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings. I think educators across the globe can relate at some level to what I am feeling. Which brings me to the question:
“What can we do in these last few weeks to bring more joy and engagement for students and staff?”
First of all, I am not going to preach about self-care. It’s super important, don’t get me wrong, but self-care alone isn’t going to get us there. I recently listened to an episode of Bam Radio Network: “Counting the Days: Managing Our Energy Through the Last Stretch of the School Year - Jon Harper with Annette Ponnock, Jane Kise, Karen Kraeger and Michael Gaskell”.
The conversation in the podcast was worth my 15 minutes. In fact, listening multiple times has helped me to begin to frame exactly how I want to end this school year for myself and my students. They talk about personal bandwidth, how our prefrontal cortex - responsible for managing our emotions, our willpower, and our decision making - gets taxed and overloaded, and what we can do about it…beyond self-care.
A Few Tips for Maintaining Emotional Energy
If it takes you 12 minutes to drive to work, give yourself 15 so that you don’t feel as rushed to get there.
If you think you need an hour to grade papers, give yourself an hour and a half. Ensure that the time is uninterrupted so that you can fully commit to it without distraction.
Bring mindfulness into the moment, such as a picture, an item, or a quote, something that you keep near that you can glance at all day long to remind you to remain present. Something that grounds you to remain calm and at peace.
Managing a Graceful and Joyful End to the School Year
First, I am going to lean into being more content with wherever the students and I are at in our learning experience together. We are all doing our best at any one given moment.
Second, I am going to give myself permission to invest time on a weekly basis to rejuvenate myself so that I can be more emotionally present for myself, my family, and my students. I’m not sure I can manage the challenge given on the podcast of an entire screen/technology free day, but maybe I can start with a few hours screen free and build from there.
Below are some additional ideas that have helped me in previous years to maintain energy throughout the year. They have also been especially helpful for maintaining that energy for the end of the year when everyone is feeling tapped out.
Build in several breaks throughout the day for students to visit with each other. No devices - real conversations. It doesn’t have to be long. I’ve found success with 4-5 minutes, especially upon returning to the classroom from specials. So much of their day is “directed” by grown-ups. I’ve really found these built-in breaks helpful for them and for me to re-enter our learning space with renewed energy.
Dedicate time in the week, even if only one day, for students to book talk and share books that they have read and loved. It will spark joyful conversations and interest in reading!
Get them outdoors for active learning and connection with nature. My kids love bringing towels to lay on the grass so that we can read books and write in our journals outdoors.
Let the students have center stage to share their learning with the class. It builds confidence and allows them to share not only what they’re learning, but also the process that got them there.
Do something completely new and maybe a little outside your comfort zone with students. Consider a science or cooking project that can bring a renewed sense of joy.
A closing note…
Yesterday the guest reader in my classroom shared a wordless picture book, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola. My mind started racing with ideas.
This book would be a great mentor text for a “How-to Book”.
Wordless picture books generate the most amazing discussions.
Imagine what fun the kids would have churning butter in the classroom.
What if we actually made pancakes in class, with real maple syrup?
And so on and so forth. This one, 20-minute story sharing from a guest in my room relit my energy and sparked ideas for what could be.
Try it: Three Questions to Ask Yourself to Renew Your Energy and Sense of Joy
What sparks your energy?
What can you envision?
How can you co-create a plan with your students for ending the year with joy?
In camaraderie, making each day count, even the hard ones…
P.S. We WILL be making pancakes and eating them with real maple syrup next week. I can’t wait! Special thanks to Allison Ashburn for bringing this idea to life by sharing this book with my class.
Read by Example is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.