Collectively as a school community, students, parents, and teachers are racing toward the end of the academic year. With only a few weeks left, schools go into hyper-drive with final assessments, reports, recitals, dances, and, of course, greatly anticipated graduation ceremonies. In the rush to finalize summer plans, it is often easy to forget that these last few weeks are vitally important for student transcripts as well as for reflecting on your child’s accomplishments over the course of the school year. Before cleaning out lockers and packing family suitcases, here are some tips for finishing the school year on a celebratory high:
1. Review end-of-year requirements with your child to see what assignments may be outstanding. If necessary, schedule a final meeting with teachers to see what remains to be done. Clear up any confusion over missing grades and make sure that your child completes past-due work, even if there’s a grade penalty. Now is the time to help your child reflect on any errors or oversights. Without being aware of their challenge areas, students are bound to face them again.
2. Make a study plan with your child that maps a road to success. Break it down into small, achievable tasks rather than one long list that can be overwhelming. Color-coordinate subject areas or remaining days of the school calendar―whatever works. When students feel that the plan is manageable, they are much more inclined to be positive about taking on the difficult tasks ahead.
3. Reorganize and restock for the last time this school year. Help your child put reading materials and notes in order. It is amazing to see what some fresh supplies―flash cards, lined paper, post-it notes, and highlighters―can do to sustain a child’s interest and enthusiasm at the end of the school year.
4. The “all-nighter” is not advised. Late-night studying may leave kids too tired to concentrate at school; research shows that assessment results are seriously impacted by lack of sleep. A healthy sleep schedule leading up to final exams is critical, and so is nutrition. Start kids off with a protein-packed breakfast and plan healthy snacks every two or three hours to maintain energy throughout the day.
5. When all the assignments have been handed in and final exams are over, plan a special family dinner. The last day of school is a great reason to do something out of the ordinary. Use the time to connect with your kids and commemorate their accomplishments over the course of the school year.
6. Encourage your child to write end-of-year thank-you notes. This is a great way for students to take stock of how their teachers helped them one-on-one; no doubt, teachers will greatly appreciate this thoughtful gesture.
7. Collect and review your child’s summer reading list and study packets. Make sure to set a vacation schedule with your child before the year is out, setting up a clear plan for the right amount of focus and learning throughout the months of fun and relaxation. Your child does not want to be cramming this work into the Labor Day weekend before school resumes.
8. As yearbooks are signed and good-byes are said, encourage your child to ask for friends’ contact information so they can keep in touch over break. A few strategic play dates scattered over the long summer could help you keep your sanity as you begin counting down the days to the start of the next school year!
You would think that as a Head of School, I must be eagerly awaiting the final bell on the last day of school. The answer is both yes and no. Yes because the summer is an important time for re-energizing the whole school community. Sleep, sun, laughter, and love are all necessary elements that prepare us to come back refreshed in September. No because each year I bid farewell to another class of graduating seniors who have made an impact on our school community and their loss will be felt. During the busy next few weeks, take a mental snapshot of your child as he or she is right now. The first grader, the middle-schooler, or perhaps the senior about to walk across a stage and receive that hard-earned diploma. This moment in time will pass in a flash, but the end of every school year marks an important milestone in your child’s journey to independence.
Dianne Drew is Head of School at Dwight School, a 141-year-old independent school in New York City. A native of Melbourne, Australia, she is an internationally recognized educator with over 20 years of experience in teaching, curriculum development, and educational consulting in both public and private schools in Australia, Asia, and New York City. Also serving as Vice President of the Middle Years Program for the Guild of International Baccalaureate Schools in North America, Dianne recently gave birth to her first child.