In the waning weeks and days of the school year, we can feel as though our students are slipping away. They are beginning to look forward to summer and anticipating the adventures of next year. Of course, we have invested the past months guiding, coaching, and preparing them for this time. We have watched as their competence and confidence have grown. We hope that we have done what is necessary to prepare them for what is next and what lies beyond as their lives unfold.
While we are excited to send them on their way, we may also feel some regret. There is never enough time to teach everything we would like our students to know. Yet, it’s amazing to see how far they have come.
Now as the end of the year approaches, we have one final opportunity to give our students some advice to reflect and rely upon in the months and years ahead. Each of our students is unique and will hear our advice in a different way. Regardless, this is a time when we want to instill hope and build their confidence. As we think about our “closing message,” here are some ideas and insights to consider passing along.
First, we can remind our students to regularly recall and recount their successes. Confidence grows as students feel successful, and success builds on success. When students remember, recount, and relive their successes they can counter negative, confidence-undermining narratives. We can remind students of the many successful experiences and occasions worthy of recalling and recounting from the past year.
Second, we can discourage students from comparing themselves and their performance to others. Comparisons to others who may be moving faster or doing better can undermine confidence even though another student may be in a very different situation. What matters most is for students to concentrate on their own learning and progress. It is also the only element students can control. Our students’ long-term success will be determined by what they do, how they continue to grow and learn, and what they do with their unique talents and skills.
Third, we can remind students that effort and occasional struggle are important to their learning. In fact, learning that comes easy is often forgotten just as easily. We can remind them that when they must concentrate and make multiple attempts before succeeding, they are building learning skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
Fourth, we can point out to our students that it’s never too late to get better. Life continues to present lessons until they are learned. No matter how well our students did this year or how much they may have struggled, there are always opportunities to get better. Life is all about growth.
Fifth, we can remind our students that school will end, but learning is lifelong. We can urge our students to continue to find and practice learning approaches that work for them. Sometimes their learning approach will not align with how they are taught. That doesn’t mean that they are not good learners. We can urge students to find the ways in which they learn best and embrace them. It can make all the difference.
Sixth, we can advise our students that what matters most is not who approves of them. What matters and will count the most is their own approval, acceptance, and confidence. To chase the approval and acceptance of others is folly. We can urge our students to live lives they can be proud of and people who count will approve of and accept them.
Seventh, we can assure our students that we see in them the potential for greatness. They have gifts and talents they may not be aware of yet. Each student has their own unique combination of special potential. Further, we can remind students that it’s not the A’s they received in school that will matter most, it will be the actions they take in life. It will not be the B’s they earned in school that will determine their future. It will be what they choose to become. And it’s not the C’s that will matter most. It will be what they are willing to commit.
Eighth, we can urge our students to take life as it comes. There is no need or benefit to hurrying life. We can remind students that every stage of life will have its gifts and delights and its challenges and heartaches. Trying to accelerate life beyond their years risks their missing important lessons and experiences that will make them more satisfied and successful people. We can remind them to live each day with purpose and to make each day count. If they always try to do the right thing, then they will live a life with few regrets.
Our end-of-year message is an opportunity to remind students one last time of the experience of the past year and it is a gift to take with them as they depart our classroom and school. Our best hope is that when they encounter life’s challenges and navigate life’s dilemmas they will be able to fall back on what they have learned and experienced in their time with us.