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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cherish the Final Days

I am probably not supposed to say this as a principal…

I am sure there are Administrator 101 textbooks out there that say it’s never good to admit this out loud, let alone in a blog post…

Yet, I am just going to say it… I am tired, and I am stressed.

You see, the end of the year is a challenging season in the world of education. This is typically when many events and activities begin to take place...graduation, end of year celebrations, assemblies, night events, the final grading period is coming to an end and projects are due. Most state testing is completed, and many students are looking at a summer break just days away.

As a principal, this time of year brings on an interesting challenge...I must plan for the future, hire for tomorrow, yet not lose focus on the here and now. This isn’t easy, and there are many moving pieces to an always changing game-plan. I think of it as playing chess, but with five games going on at the same time…

It’s this time of year when I find out staff members I love dearly are taking on new challenges or promotions at different schools, or staying home with family, or retiring. In one moment I am hurting as I find out I have to say goodbye, and in the next realizing that I need search to find the right person to welcome in as a new member of our team.

This time of year is challenging. It is difficult, and I hate to admit it...but it is emotionally draining.

Last night we had our school’s annual Student Council Dance, and I asked for every teacher to please attend...this of course meant I asked for everyone to come to a night activity on a Friday night, from 6-8 PM, with only a few weeks remaining in the school year.

For many this would seem like a difficult thing to get excited about, after all, I knew how tired I was feeling...yet our teachers are pretty amazing. While it would have been easy to find a reason to miss, they didn’t. They were there, ready to enjoy a moment with the hundreds of families that came.

At the end of the night a gentleman stopped me smiling saying, “Hey, only eight days left!”

I laughed, and said something like, “You know it!”

Right after that a grandmother, who is mom to her granddaughter, pulled me aside and asked if she could share something with me. I smiled and said, “Of course!”

Her eyes began to tear up, “You have the best staff in the whole world Mr. Steele! It’s a Friday night at 8 o’clock and this building is filled with teachers making my granddaughter smile. Please tell them thank you for me, they don’t know how much this means to us parents, to give up their night for our children.”

I thanked her, gave her a hug, and watched as she turned and took her granddaughter's hand. It was in that moment that I realized something...we only have eight days left!

You see, there are two ways to look at the statement - We only have eight days left.

One way - We only have EIGHT days left. Often it is a countdown, only eight days until a break. Only eight days until summer. Only eight days until I can sleep a little longer and have a little less stress. Teaching is a challenging profession, and I can admit this has been my mentality for the majority of the final few weeks of school I have had.

There is another way to read this statement though, and it hit me last night as that wonderful grandmother walked away - We ONLY have eight days left. You only have eight days left with the kids you have grown to love in your class this year. Only eight days to see if your students will have another light-bulb moment. Only eight days to laugh with the students you have built such a great classroom culture with. We only have eight days left with the students we love so much. Only eight days left with teachers I am going miss more than they will every truly know.

Education is a marathon race that starts over each and every year. As educators we have two options when we can see the finish line...we can give into our exhaustion and stress only to limp across the finish line, OR we push forward with everything we have left as we cross the finish line celebrating each final moment we get with the students and colleagues we love so much.

As I said in the beginning of this post, whether I should admit it or not...I am tired, and I am stressed. As I think over my years of teaching and administration I have to admit I have crossed the finish line with a limp in my step on more than one occasion...only to miss my students the next Monday they didn’t return.

This time of year is difficult and exhausting - but we need to remember to cherish the final days. Cherish the moments with the students you love, and the colleagues you care so much about. At our school there are only eight days left, and I hope I cherish each one before they are gone.


  1. So true and well put. I needed this post; thank you. I too have quite a limp in my step as you mentioned above, but now I'm more motivated to make the very best of these last 8 days.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing .you said aloud how many are feeling but your leadership allows them to move beyond the weariness and stress to engage with students and school community. Thank you again.

  3. Reading this post, makes me reflect on the behavior of my students this past week. It's different, they know our time together is almost over too. I've gotten more cards, hugs, and requests to sit next to a certain student in class. By the end of the year, the classroom culture has become that of a second family. Some are sad to leave it behind and anxious for what next year will bring. Our Problem Based Learning unit is just what our students need now. It's collaborative! They get more quality time with their friends before they have to say goodbye, and it's memorable so they will reflect back as years pass and remember the friends they made in second grade.

  4. May I add one more important to wrap up in the final part of the school year? We have to build on the thread throughout the year (yes, informal learning is not a "Don't forget that learning can happen anywhere, anytime - including during the summer" idea shared via word or note in the backpack) at this time of the school year. There were, I'm quite sure times when a student said "Dr.B, I was in the dentist's waiting room and read an article on the solar wind. Where can I learn more." (Actually happened, Andrew Campbell...) Or something along those lines. Did you enable that student to talk about the article?

    There's another part of this ongoing thread too. Have your colleagues tried to get the town and the citizens engaged with the students - meaningful, learning work studies and service products --> informal learning experiences.

    And the final part of the thread: the love of reading. Have you encouraged book reading assignments that each student can find meaningful? Have you maybe had students share "books I really liked" lists available to all? Have you helped your students learn the opportunities available to them via the public library.

    Alexander and collaborators have shown the gaps in learning levels are mostly attributable to the level of summer informal learning. Educators can (and should) play an important role in building all students' environments such that informal learning is a fun reality.


  5. This is really an awesome article. Thank you for sharing this.It is worth reading for everyone.

    Stem Learning