(After an extended hiatus, The Write Project is returning to the blogging world. Coincidentally, the original vacation from routine publishing corresponded quite chronologically with my taking an administrative position. In no way should this reemergence be indicative in any way of my having finally figured out that gig. Rather, I simply have greater need for compositional therapy, and thus, this post.)
About twenty years ago, I started a new job in the Windy City and found my classroom situated across the hall from someone I learned more about education from than most of my college professors combined. Mr. Powers simply got kids, got student engagement and revolutionized the way I approached each day as a teacher. For some reason, his email tagline sticks with me: “Keep the Faith and Finish Well.” Perhaps because at this time of year, both urgings are timely and crucial.
No matter the relative crucible in which you dwell with your child’s schooling, whether as benign as a walk in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood or as anxiety-ridden as a high stakes trial, faith is essential to keeping perspective, but what of finishing well? It’s something we all aspire to, but we often settle for a white-knuckled, desperate “hold on for dear life” until summer arrives M.O., hopefully emerging from the educational rigors with all limbs and kin intact.
Perhaps there’s a better way, or a different path to take during this last month. Thus, here are 5 helpful, and perhaps controversial, tips to finishing the school year well:
- Bring the Gratitude – Take out a card and write a note of gratitude to someone in need of a little cheer. Maybe it’s your child’s bus driver. Maybe it’s the lunch lady. Maybe it’s that friendly barista who’s filled you with so much caffeine this year that your left eye permanently twitches. Take 4 ½ minutes (a decent, well-written card can be penned in around 250 seconds) and pen a hand-written note. Make sure you do it before the last week of school. Part of the beauty of this action plan is the euphoria of receiving unexpected gratitude. Plus, according to Psychology Today, purposeful gratitude fosters better sleep, improves physical health and lowers aggression. (Perhaps I could prescribe some gratitude for the angry parents in my milieu.)
- Break the Routine – Routine, especially when dealing with the Type A, soccer mom-folk, often gets elevated to the level of a Fruit of the Spirit. Making lunches, packing the bag and tidying the bedroom get done with military-like precision, in hopes that following the established plan brings order out of the morning chaos. If you’ve been postal-like steady all year, it’s time to zig where others zag. Make it a family bike ride to school tomorrow. Eschew the brown bag lunch for Subway. Wait to open the blinds and go candlelight for breakfast, if for no other reason than that it’s fun to play with our kids’ minds.
- Skip Something – As hinted at above, here’s the controversial item stuck right in the middle of the list. The Write Project is officially giving you the okay to skip something in the next month. Yes, Parental Guilt always wants to pummel you like a punching bag, but honestly, Timmy will survive just fine if you don’t show up at the 1st Grade Art Show in order to see him standing next to his Picasso-inspired take on Spring Tree #1. No, this doesn’t apply to the big ones, like commencement or graduation or the solo that Lola’s crooning at the state choral festival. But giving yourself permission to skip something will not only restore a bit of coveted sanity, it might just feel liberating enough to make the air seem lighter.
- Go Down Memory Lane – My daughter Kenna loves home movies; me, not so much, but every time we sit down to watch as a family, smiles, laughter and “aws” fill the room. Why not fuel on some Nostalgia and make a simple slide show with some pix of your child’s school year, filled with a few poignant quotations and some sappy, tear-jerking tunes. Pick a morning, herd everyone into the living room and simply say, “I’m so proud of all of you for what you’ve accomplished this year. To celebrate, let’s take a look at all that you’ve done.” Chances are they’ll be so touched by the effort, you’ll get a few write-in votes for Parent of the Year.
- Pop the Balloon. – During the drudgery of studying for finals before Christmas break, my wife gave my HS daughters the idea to decorate a balloon for each exam, then blow them up and hang them in the play room. With each completed exam, the girls popped the balloons, with, I might add, a special measure of both fury and delight. Apply the idea to the end of the school year. Countdown the days, blow up the balloons and get to exploding. The side benefit is the stark, unexpected terror it causes in unsuspecting siblings.
That’s it, the guide to finishing the school year well. If you’re so moved by the Write Project’s tips, pick five friends to invite to become followers of this blog. If you’re less than enthused, pick five enemies to invite.