4 steps to finishing this year on a high

Before you clock off for the summer it’s important to look back and celebrate your achievements over the last year. Here one international teacher shows you how

Orla Carlin

Woman on top of a mountain

For international schools the end of the year is drawing very near. Teacher assessed grades have been finalised, professional development logs have been updated and most lessons are wrapping up. 

But even though our regular routine is drawing to a close our minds may still be racing, already planning for the coming year.

With this is mind, it’s important to make a conscious effort to slow down and wrap up the year with some reflection and rejuvenation. Endings in general are important, as they shape how we look at the future, and as tempting as it is to count down the days and cross of the calendar, why not embrace time differently this year.

Here are four ways to end this year on a positive note:

  1. Reflect with colleagues

To have encouraging, reflective discussions can be empowering for both speakers and listeners. As a department or year group it may help put the rollercoaster school year into perspective. 

Have a casual meeting with a quick-fire round of questions online or face to face.  

The following questions might just help you move past things that are no longer working, while keeping the pieces which are. They can help to embrace both the unpleasant and amazing things that happened this year.

  • What did you know about online learning before the pandemic?
  • How did you maintain focus throughout the whole learning process of online or blended learning?
  • Even though classrooms may return to face-to-face, how can you use the knowledge gained in the future?
  • What have you done over the last year to ensure wellbeing and compassion for your own mental health?
  • How have your colleagues helped you over the last year?
  • If you could compliment one colleague in school, what would you say and why?
  • If you could sum up the last year in five words, what would you say?
  • What are you proud of after this teaching year?

2. Reflect with your students

Wrap up the last few days of school with some reflection in form time or assembly. Using similar questions as the ones above, but adapted for students, this can help grasp where they are at and how they are really feeling.   

It gives them a chance to mentally wander and make sense of everything too. Designing a poster of reflective thoughts online or offline can be a nice way to synthesise everything. Also, because this was an unusual year it will become a poster of historical value to you in the future and something worth cherishing

3. Focus on your strengths

Focussing on the positives can ensure that any worries and doubts about the next academic year can be put into perspective. Your summer holidays can start with solid foundations.  

Perhaps you are undecided over where your career is heading or maybe you want to take on your role from a new angle. It could even be just exploring your personal life and looking for ways to enrich it. 

Try to keep track of the times you laugh the most, appear to be gesticulating, talk faster or smile more. Think about the activities you do where you appear to lose track of time. Note them down and think about how you can integrate them into your holidays.   

The VIA Institute on Character lists 24 character strengths allowing you to pinpoint your strongest attributes. Are you more creative, brave and kind or do you swing more between curious, prudent and hopeful? Sometimes knowing our character strengths can help us focus on activities and hobbies over the summer that we may have neglected.

4. Shape your holiday routine

Cultivate a sense of power over your day by sticking to a morning routine. Try this on the last week of school and then execute it during the holidays. It means that you can get the most out of your days. 

Of course you can still sleep in but the main thing is that when you wake up you do so without sending your body into survival mode. Waking up without a plan and going straight on social media can be rather damaging for the rest of your day.  

Try switching your phone off for the first hour, meditating, switching coffee for herbal tea and planning out the day ahead. If you find it difficult to wake up early during school days then a new routine can help form new habits that will be second nature come September.

Orla Carlin is a sociology teacher based in Dubai and is completing a masters in mental health and wellbeing in education

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Orla Carlin

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