Finding Your Beautiful Moment the Last Week of School

“For a few brief days the orchards are white with blossoms. They soon turn to fruit, or else float away, useless and wasted, upon the gentle breeze. So will it be with present feelings. They must be deepened into decision, or be entirely dissapated by delay.” Theodore Cuyler

It is Saturday. I just ate my lunch at school halfway through grading the end of term websites, blog posts, and NetGenEd video projects. Yes. I am at school.

There is only one chance to finish well.

When I run, I've learned to sprint the last lap and all-out run the last 100 meters. It is proven to make you faster and stronger. It also feels great to know that I gave EVERYTHING I had to that one run. I can go home, relax, enjoy myself and know that I left it all and gave it all in a pure, beautiful moment of physical activity.

This is Your Beautiful Moment
This is your moment, my friends. In the northern hemisphere we are finishing school.

“The deepest principle of human nature is the desire to be appreciated.” William James

As you finish, please consider some things that will make the lives of others better.

  • Help People Retire with Dignity and Memories. If someone is retiring, consider making a voicethread and inviting everyone to leave comments and texts about the person. Or make a DVD with the faces and voices of people they've touched. Give them something to remember and cherish like a photo album. They've worked hard and deserve it. Give people the dignity of retiring well.
  • Leave comments on every students' report card. It is a lot. It takes a lot and you don't have much to give. This is the one gift you can give that will give to your students for the rest of their lives. Find one thing each of them did well each year that is honest and sincere.
  • Say Thank You. Dash off a note, an ecard, send a text message. Thank those who help you.
  • Remember the janitors. If I have T-shirts from events, they love them. Take a $5 or $10 bill and roll it up in your hand and give them a small thank you that no one knows about.  Look them in the EYE and say a genuine thank you for what they do for you by cleaning your room. They clean up vomit and every indescribable, horrible thing found on the school campus. They deserve to feel a thank you from you. Everyone wants to make a difference and some of our truest servant leaders are our janitors.
  • Remember the lunchroom staff and others. Say thank you. Many of the staff are hourly and may have a tough, tight summer until they come back. Know what they like – whether it is an inexpensive flat of flowers to plant in their yard, or just a look in the eye saying thank you. TELL THEM THANK YOU.
  • Plan Your Last Day Well So Students Know You Care. Students need to hear speeches because you can't say things enough. They may groan when you talk about being safe over the summer. They may roll your eyes when you tell them you love them and encourage them to make wise choices. Who cares what they think — If they KNOW you love them and you say what they need to hear. You have one more chance. Let the students leave your room knowing that you LOVE them and with the words echoing in their ears that they need to live a good life. (I love the “paper plate” awards that Chris Lehman‘s staff does where every student has something genuine that they do well that is written on a paper plate and given out in an assembly.)
  • Leave Well. If this is your last time at this school. Leave well. Your room should look better than when you found it. Say thank you. Be careful to never burn bridges.

Oh, but our principal thanks all these people in an assembly, you say.

Sure. But this is about making your school better one person at a time. When people feel appreciated there is no limit to what can be done. A principal cannot hold back the greatness of a staff that genuinely appreciates one another and treats one another with respect.

Respect starts with you. 

You, the person reading this. You probably read my blog for the technology part but hopefully you also read it because you want to be an amazingly good educator that leaves a lifetime legacy. (Or to understand the thinking of such truly great teachers.) You know that whatever you think is what you become.

You reap what you sow.

Sow goodness, appreciation, and a job well done. SPRINT, baby, SPRINT! You're almost done! FINISH WELL!

Leave it all there.

Oh, and by the way, it isn't the end of the world, it is just a Saturday. Live it well. Be noble.

Thank you for being here.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Leslie Healey May 21, 2011 - 6:52 pm

I am in the library reading British lit archetype/myth essays after grading world poetry wikipages. My beautiful moment was our last school mass in the gym on Thursday. Father announced the retiring teachers. My colleague is retiring at 83 and is still one of the best teachers I have ever encountered in my life. None of us want her to go, but we understand.  When they announced her name, the 350 seniors went nuts and gave her a standing ovation (not usually appropriate behavior for mass). We all had tears streaming down our faces (not her. she’s is made of iron. But her smile almost broke her face!). I am getting tears in my eyes now. That’s all she has ever wanted: the kids to love her as much as she loved them. I hope I get half that reaction when I retire. Back to Sir Galahad and the Grail!

coolcatteacher May 21, 2011 - 9:33 pm

 And you have just multiplied the moment by sharing it! Oh, so few great teachers get that kind of love and appreciation! One of our best educators here is over 80 – she runs our learning lab! She bikes an hour every night and was the first one to read The World is Flat here and realize that we were in it! Kudos to the amazing teachers among us like your colleague and mine! We need to sing their praises more! If you write a post about her, let me know, I’d love to link to it. I wish you’d interview her and post to youtube or something! WOW!

Jen Malphy May 22, 2011 - 1:59 am

This is an absolutely AMAZING blog post!  Thanks so much for sharing it!  We have four teachers retiring at the end of this school year.  Last week I took my two library display cases and put pictures/memories from staff/students in it from the many years of their teaching.  I felt I owed it to these great teachers.  I have had multiple compliments on the display with one of my colleagues even saying she cried when she was looking at it!  

coolcatteacher May 23, 2011 - 10:16 am

Wow, Jen! What a great idea! That is the legacy we must build. The retiring educators have done so much for us and to remember and honor them is important! We must do what is right and it is right to honor their years of service! WAY TO GO!!! Applause!

Jamie May 24, 2011 - 2:24 am

What an awesome post! Feeling totally inspired by “There is only one chance to finish well.”  Am so ready to finish out the year with a fresh perspective.  And you are so right about those comments! Projects get ripped or crunched or destroyed but gradecards are held on to.  I’m all about the comments!

coolcatteacher May 24, 2011 - 10:21 am

Wow, Jamie! I’m totally inspired by your comment! This is why I blog! I had a teacher at my school yesterday who was feeling down at the end of the year. I shared with her how I felt myself and emailed her a post. She was like “Other teachers really feel this way! I feel so much better.” She was reached, I think, most of all by the comments of teachers on the post. So, when you write, you become part of an echo of teachers who are saying “YES!” We can speak for ourselves and YES – the comments are important!! My students yesterday were talking about how Mrs. Vicki always writes comments and I told them it is because I want them to know that each of them are good at something and that I love them.

Scducharme May 28, 2011 - 7:41 am

I love this post. As a teacher in an international school, the end of year is very emotional since we have high teacher and student turnover. Ending the year well makes a huge difference.
Thanks for your ideas on this.

teachermum June 4, 2011 - 6:02 am

Hi Vicki
I just found you and am so glad I did. Thank you for all the useful information. I am now a keen follower and looking forward to connecting with you.

coolcatteacher June 4, 2011 - 11:04 am

Thank you so much! I will check out your site too!

Vicki Davis
Sent from my iPad

coolcatteacher June 7, 2011 - 1:47 pm

I hear that international schools have struggles with creating constant connections. That would be hard. So glad this helped!

Gary Anderson June 8, 2011 - 11:40 pm

Thank you for this wisdom. At the end of the year, it’s easy to be tired and grouchy, but expressing gratitude to and for our students, our colleagues, and our profession is energizing. I’m glad so many have found your words, Vicki. They are important.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere