Head of School Blog

Finishing Strong

Jill Singleton
Spending time at the beach for Memorial Day weekend has been a tradition for my family for as long as I can remember. In the context of school life, it always feels like the calm before the storm –a time to rest and reflect before being completely absorbed in the busyness of bringing the school year to a close. This year, as in years past, I found myself puzzling over the mystery of time – it felt like just yesterday we were battling one snow storm after another and the summer was so far away, and then “boom!” – Memorial Day hits and it feels like we’ve been catapulted through time and the end of the school year is right around the corner.

If this aspect of time is tricky for us, I can only imagine what it must be like for our children. I certainly remember the itch I felt for summer vacation the first time the mercury hit 80 degrees! I remember how hard it was to get up day after day in what felt like the middle of the summer to go to….SCHOOL! Of course my friends and I found it hard to concentrate, as I’m sure our children do right now.

Given this universal phenomenon around the end of the year, I thought it would make sense to offer some guidance on making the most of the remaining days of school so that you and your children can take advantage of all that the end of the year has to offer.

1. For starters, don’t hype vacation yet! Help your child recognize that there are X days of school left, and that teachers have planned important curriculum closures – many of which will contain assessments.
2. Check the Mid-Week Memo for important dates and times and make sure to add these to your personal calendar. You won’t want to miss important ceremonies and assemblies that are scheduled for the end of the year.
3. Consider attending graduation, even if it will be years before your child is in Eighth Grade. This wonderful milestone can be inspiring to you and your family.
4. Be sensitive to your child’s emotional state when school ends. Transitions are difficult for many children, and leaving the comfort of school can be hard for some. Even children who grouse about going to school or who say they can’t wait for the onset of summer may struggle once the comfort of their everyday routine comes to an abrupt end.
5. Don’t over-hype the next grade level as this can create stress for your child. For example, you don’t want to say “Fifth Grade is going to be really tough and you really need to get your act together.” Instead, say something like, “Congratulations on meeting all of the benchmarks for Fourth Grade – this assures you are ready for Middle School.”
6. After school is over, give your child some true vacation time before digging in to summer work and assignments. Everyone needs a break, so take the cue from your child – if s/he picks up an assigned book and starts reading on her own, great. If not, give it some time – come up with a plan that begins after the Fourth of July holiday. Then make sure you have a plan in place for getting the work done and that expectations are clear (ex., you will read 20 minutes each night before bed or upon waking, you will write one page in your journal two times per week, etc.).
7. Make some plans for important family time together. This does not have to include a fancy trip somewhere – sometimes a little down time together taking a long walk and getting an ice cream cone is the best medicine for all.
8. Let your child know how proud you are of his/her accomplishments this year. Invite a conversation about highlights of the year – but don’t push too hard as teachers are engaging in a lot of reflection in school and you child may choose to have these be his/her special memories.

I hope these tips help you and your family enjoy the final stages of a remarkable year. Let’s join together to make sure we finish strong as a community!

A word about our change regarding Summer Send Off: Last year, the Summer Send Off was rained out, causing a lot of stress and disappointment for students and staff. However, reflecting on the closure it became clear that the change was good – some parents expressed relief that the day was cut a bit short, and that students could leave after their classroom ceremonies. Teachers also expressed feelings that the day was much more manageable – they, too, are tired, and work hard to ensure that the end of the year is meaningful for each and every child. After taking these and other factors into consideration, we decided to “sunset” this tradition and to focus our efforts on making the last day special for all students. This year, following classroom ceremonies, we will all meet in the church for a closing ceremony that will include the granting of our school wide Mission Awards. Check this week’s Mid-Week Memo for details.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com