3 End-of-the-School-Year Reminders

Last Saturday I drove my daughter to the local lake dam spillway to meet her teammates for a weekend track workout.
After twenty minutes of warm-up running on the grassy path to the spillway and back, they lined up for drills. These included 12 sprints up an intimidatingly steep grassy incline to practice increasing speed.

It was a joy to watch all of the students working hard and pushing themselves. As they neared their tenth sprint drill, their legs began shaking, their shirts were lined with sweat, and their chests heaved with every breath. Their movement was a mass of arms pumping, legs kicking up the hill, bending over to catch a breath, standing up tall before making the climb down to run up again.

One upperclassman who is known for excelling in running, began talking to himself. “I am going to break the school record this year. This is where I come to become great!” The young man’s voice echoed off the grassy hill, and his teammates alternately laughed, gasped for air, or ignored him. “This is where I come to become great! This IS where I come to become GREAT!”

Perspective Check
This is the time of year where I am reminded that we have almost reached our end of the school year “race”. When you start a new season of school, you are fresh and eager, warmed up and ready to run. That first surge at the starting bell is exhilarating.

But as you turn the corners of the school-year track, you begin to feel the strain of muscles being pushed to their limit, you begin to gasp for breath, and if you’re lucky, you glimpse the finish line with a prayer of relief.

Our high school track coach told me that runners often ignore important factors that can make them successful competitors (other than just natural ability): Healthy food choices, solid sleep patterns, smart warm-up and cool-down routines, correct technique, and proper hydration play big roles in helping runners finish strong.

If you’re like me, you may be feeling the edge of fatigue as you look down the road to the finish of school. But the same advice that enhances a runner’s ability may also apply to us.

So here are 3 quick reminders on finishing strong in the last leg of our school race:

1. Maintain solid routines when we may be tempted to begin coasting.
Think back to the routines, expectations, and strategies you implemented at the start of the year. How are those still important, relevant, and essential? For me, one of those is being present and visible. It is a small gesture but one that is easy to replace with meetings or other important to-do’s. My students need my visibility now as much as they did at the start of school. So I am motivated to maintain that goal.

2. Encourage healthy day-to-day choices when you could easily ignore priorities.
For me, following up on parent phone calls, filing reports on time, staying up-to-date on signing requisitions, having those tough conversations I would rather avoid–these are as important now to the integrity, support, and progress of our school as they were day one of school.

3. Stay the course even as you feel the pull of fatigue calling you to slow down.
There are some tough decisions, bench-marks, or tasks that must be completed before wrapping up the last leg of the school-year-race. What were some priorities you set early in the year, that still apply now? On a personal level, are you still caring for your own body, mind, and soul so that you can be a resource to others?

The young man who was shouting motivations to himself on the hill recently set a personal-best-time which is only a fraction of a second from setting a new school record in the 100-yard dash. I have to believe that his grueling workout on the grassy hill will play a big part if he breaks the record. More importantly, his attitude on that hill has already made him a winner.

As you face your own climb over the final weeks of school, instead of dreading the strain, keep dreaming of your reaching your goals. And also give yourself permission to relish the dream of a well-deserved summer vacation.

As you accept the challenges of the next few weeks with an encouraging mindset, you may also discover this is the place where you [and your school] have come to become great.

Now It’s Your Turn:
What are some end-of-the-year strategies you use to keep yourself, your students, or your team motivated to finish strong? Share with the rest of us.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker