Don’t pack your bags too soon: finish well

Finishing well is a lifelong habit. It requires discipline. There are those who have lifelong careers of excellence and yet they pack their bags three or four years before they retire and muss up a legacy. Don’t pack your bags too soon.

Girl on suitcase ready to go on vacation. We need to not pack our bags too soon.

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…”

When you’re on vacation, I can tell you when it ends… usually about the time you pack your bags to go home. There are early packers, they start packing their bags several days before returning home… ready to go, they relax just a little less, they gear up and start writing lists. Sometimes these early packers end their vacation several days early and miss out on some of the sweetest conversations and times of doing nothing.

Then, there are those who do the opposite. They start packing for days before going on vacation and mentally check out from the real world. When we come back from winter break, there will literally be some seniors, about to graduate, who have already packed their bags. We call it “senioritis” but really, it is just a case of packing your bags way too soon.

New year thought: I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand is in what direction we are moving.

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand is in what direction we are moving. What direction are you moving in your classroom? When you check out, you go backwards! There is no equilibrium – forward or backwards, that is it. Every moment matters.

A time for every season

There is a time to pack your bags and move on. A time to retire. A time to go on vacation. A time to come home. These times of transition can be a good thing and help us live balanced, healthy seasons of life.

There are those who study and work hard in high school and get into the college of their dreams and yet, they pack their bags too soon and forget that their colleges are still watching those scores and miss out on those dreams as offers are rescinded. Don’t pack your bags too soon.

Finishing well is part of living a better life. Will you ramp up or check out?

Finishing well is part of living a better life. Will you ramp up or check out?

There are teachers who have epic years of teaching but when testing is done, they figure the year is done. Yep, they pack their bags too soon and miss out on some of the best teaching of the year and just show mindless videos that they don't even watch with the students. If you need an upcoming test to validate whether you should teach or not, you’re sending the wrong message and forgetting why we’re in this profession: to teach. Don’t pack your bags too soon.

Remind those you care about to finish well

You teach with your life and your actions.

I have a homeroom of seniors. My job is to tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear because finishing well is important.

Many. Most of us, me included, have had times when we didn’t finish well and packed our bags too soon.

Winston Churchill said it best. This magnet is on my refrigerator. We work until the last bell on the last day.

Winston Churchill said it best. This magnet is on my refrigerator. We work until the last bell on the last day.


But not this year. Not this time. Not this career.

We cannot do anything about times we’ve packed our bags too soon but we can do something about now.

  • We can encourage soon to be retirees to finish with zest and save the best for last.
  • We can encourage soon to be graduates to finish with determination and have their highest GPA at the end.
  • We can introduce epic teaching by creating our best lessons at the end.

Grit  is being shown as THE critical habit for success (see my Edutopia article) and there’s no better way to teach it than finishing well. Sprint to the finish. Pack your bags when it is time to go, not before. Finish well, dear teachers and encourage students to do the same.

Remember your noble calling, teachers. It isn't easy, but it is worth it.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t pack your bags too soon: finish well

  1. Love this article–it’s a symptom of society. One thing I felt I noted, though was this quote, “but when testing is done, they figure the year is done.” Even though, you’re right, everyone should do his or her best to maximize every learning moment, schools have structured it so that testing is the pinnacle. Testing is hyped, prepped for–there are test prep CLASSES students take if they’re at risk of failing the high-stakes tests that determine graduation. Test prep classes they take instead of an elective or other learning experience.

    Therefore, in a culture where the test is everything, day to day education is deemphasized. No one really knows that it’s the learning moments we cherish, the relationships we build, and the down time where the epiphanies will appear–those are the moments students will later cite as the ones that changed their lives, gave them career paths, and made them want to learn intrinsically.

    We’re teaching to the test at such a level as I never would have imagined when I made my career switch. What was once me disguising college-level concepts is now supposed to be me teaching the same material as all my colleagues and peers, right down to common assessments for units. I used to double and triple prep assessments because I’d have sections of classes that wanted to take the material in different directions. In so doing, they learned what they were interested in at a much higher level. Learning what they wanted with me focusing in on the skills… But now, people prep for The Test and truly fear The Test, from students up to admin.

    We’ve got the focus all wrong. That’s why, after The Test, people sigh, breathe, and relax. They’ve sprinted to the wrong finish line, and now they are too tired to run that extra mile to the real end…

    I agree with you 100% though. Somehow, we have to change that focus. By “we” I mean us, and also those with even more power to do so:)

  2. This is a great piece! I feel like a good way around this is to avoid the idea of retirement entirely. Humans are meant to work, explore and learn their whole lives. Often times retirement means the end of this journey…I’ve seen people retire and began their life of “relaxation” only to quickly realize that they hate all of the free time. You are a much healthier, and happier person when you have a purpose and passion for your daily activities.

    Do something that will keep you engaged forever, and don’t retire I say! There is no senioritis if there is no end in sight. Thoughts?

  3. Nice post! A breather to all those who feel pressured just by the thought of: ‘What should I do next?’
    It’s like saying: Just have fun for now and get back to it later! You have all the time you want!

    Well of course we don’t have all the time in the world, but I think making the best out of what we have now is the most efficient way to maximize the limited time we have.

    Thanks for posting Vicki!

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