Growing from Challenges—Ending the Year on a Positive Note

There is no other way to say it—this school year has been full of unique challenges and demanding questions. Whether you have been teaching remotely, in-person with social distancing, or a hybrid of the two, you probably found yourself grappling with questions ranging from How do I build community when we are not physically together? to How can students work in partners when they need to be 6 feet away? to How do I teach fractions/reading/cooperation/writing in this setting?

Despite these obstacles, you and your students have found success! Your students have learned, worked, laughed, and had fun together. You have taught them new skills and picked up some of your own. As the school year comes to a close, now is the ideal time to acknowledge and celebrate all that you and your students have accomplished. Here are some ways to help students celebrate their growth over the course of the year. 


Celebrate with Reflection

“Look at what you can do now!”

Use reinforcing language and plan reflection activities that highlight how much your students have grown this year:

Celebrate with Reflection
  • Have your class brainstorm a list of new skills they did not have before this year (for example: how to cut and paste, how to go back and forth between tabs, or how to add comments to a classmate’s Google slide). Ask students to imagine how they might use these new skills next year.
  • Show students their physical or digital work from the fall and let them compare it to what they can do now.
  • Refer back to their Hopes and Dreams, SMART goals, or other goals set at the beginning of the year and ask them, “What did you do to work on your goal? What was a challenge about your goal?”

Celebrate with Each Other

“Look at what we did together!”

Create opportunities for the class to celebrate as a community:

Celebrate with Each Other
  • Make a virtual class scrapbook where students can write compliments and encouraging notes to each other.
  • Take a walk down memory lane and look back through the digital or physical morning messages from the past year. Discuss times that were more challenging (such as trying to get to know each other virtually, or when school reopened and everyone had to learn new routines), and how the class worked or learned together.
  • Ask students what advice they would give to next year’s students and compile the advice into a book or letter.

Celebrate by Having Fun

Find ways to infuse joy into the last weeks of the school year:

Celebrate by Having Fun
  • Incorporate reflection and celebrations into Morning Meeting. For example, modify the activity “Just Like Me” into “Now I Know” so students can share about what they are most proud of having learned or accomplished this year.
  • Make an end-of-the-year slideshow where each student designs a slide so they can show off the new technology skills they learned this year.
  • Don’t forget your favorite end-of-the-year traditions – the read-alouds, games, and activities that you’ve always used. They may only need a bit of tweaking to work in your current setting. 

Celebrate Your Personal Successes

“Look at what I did!”

Your students are not the only ones who deserve to celebrate! Before you put this year behind you and enjoy a well-deserved break, take some time to appreciate how you have tackled and overcome so many challenges:

Celebrate Your Personal Successes
  • Reflect on the new skills, ideas, or ways of teaching that you’ve added to your repertoire this year. How can you incorporate them into your teaching next year?
  • Choose something small to commemorate this year–a short note to yourself, a picture, an inspiring word, or a quote.  Put it someplace where you will find it as you set up for the next school year.
  • Plan time to connect and celebrate with your colleagues. Highlight the ways your staff worked together to make this year a success.

Adding intentional celebrations to your end-of-the-year lesson plans benefits you and your students in a number of ways. Students recognize how much they’ve learned. They internalize their new learning. All members of the learning community finish the year on a high note. You did not just survive this school year— you met its challenges and grew from them. And in the fall, when schools reopen for a new year, you will all be that much better prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.


Written by Suzy Ghosh

One Reply to “Growing from Challenges—Ending the Year on a Positive Note”

  • This is so helpful, not just for students, but also for parents who were home helping their children manage virtual school all year. This has certainly been a challenging year, and this article is really great for helping to reflect on all the fabulous achievements that came out of hardship.

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