Providing a safe space for our students to thrive in is a necessity for our classrooms. As a high school teacher, we are responsible for building a positive rapport with 180 students throughout the year: three classes a semester at 30 kids maximum per class. To me, it’s important that a connection is established in the first two days of meeting students. Through ice breaker activities and manifesting meaningful conversation within those first 144 minutes, I usually create positive relationships rather quickly. But what I want to talk about today is the end of the school year instead of the beginning.
You’ve gotten to know these kids over the past four months and suddenly they no longer belong to you. They write your exam and are sent off to be another teacher’s student, so how will they remember you? I know some teachers throw a classroom party where there is junk food and intermingling. Others bring donuts that day as a send off treat. Personally, I like to do something special for each of my kids to make them feel individually appreciated. It takes time and effort on your part and sometimes is not very cost effective, but you leave the students feeling appreciated and valued. Each individual student brings so much to our classroom so I think it is important for them to know that they influenced the environment and classroom dynamic. Below are some ideas I’ve done in the past to say so long to my kiddos.
1. THANK YOU NOTES
As I mentioned in my “FriYAY” post, every Friday in my classroom starts off with a Jimmy Fallon video from that week. One of the sets Fallon does is called “Thank You Notes” where he thanks random people or things in a joking way. I have written each of my students a personal funny thank you note about something they contributed to the classroom, ex: “Thank you, Joey, for being like a lunar eclipse. You rarely show up, but when you do, it’s enjoyed by all!”. The kids get a kick out of them and they share them together reminiscing about our semester and all the funny things that happened by everyone forgot about.
2. SAINT PRAYER CARDS
Because I teach at a Catholic school, I like to purchase prayer cards for my students. Sometimes they are a generic prayer like “Footprints”, or sometimes they are cards of specific Saints that a particular student has reminded me of throughout the year. Other times I choose a Saint I think someone can benefit from praying to. I include a little blurb about why the Saint or prayer is important for that student to look to in times of need or gratitude. I find my kids really like this idea because it helps them understand their importance to me that I thought of their needs in and outside of our classroom. It also further connects them with their faith, which is always a plus in this generation.
3. GRATITUDE NOTEBOOKS
Throughout the semester, I preach the importance of gratitude and students’ giving thanks for their daily blessings. Every Monday, the start of the new week, we share our “Peak and Pit” of the weekend. We talk about what was good and bad about their weekend and why it’s important to recognize the negativity they are harbouring in their day-to-day. At the end of a semester, I’ve given my students individual gratitude notebooks that they can use to continue these traditions. I write a personal note about how they have influenced our classroom energy and invite them to use the notebook as a place to continue our classroom traditions. The notebook should act as a place to write their hopes, dreams, peaks, pits, ideas, etc. I always ask them: what are you manifesting this week?
These are just three ideas I use in the classroom to say farewell to my kiddos after a semester. I find they enjoy the personal aspect to these gifts and carry their memories with them as they continue on through high school and beyond. Are there any interesting end-of-semester ideas you use in your classroom? I’d love to hear about them, comment below!