Ending the year in my culinary class has always brought a significant layer of stress. Instead of winding down, we amp up to prepare Senior Board refreshments for 700+ people. Since Senior Boards typically happen the last week of school, immediately after we head into clean-up and inventory mode to close out the year. Instead of finishing the year in a fun positive way, we often end the year with student's least favorite thing to do....cleaning. This is not the last memory I want my students to have of my class. The end of the year should be filled with happiness and joy and time to celebrate and reflect!
This year I was determined to close the year out right. Typically, Senior Boards are the last two days for our Seniors and we don't see them again until graduation. This means that we are frantically scurrying around in catering mode the last few days in my class leaving no time for reflection or celebration of all that they've accomplished. To change that, I decided I would invite my Seniors back the following day to join our underclassmen and do just that....celebrate and reflect. We cooked French toast and bacon and set up our tables in a big square so we could all eat together as a family. Once everyone had settled around the tables with their breakfasts, I played a video of all the pictures taken throughout the year (I think I counted 300!!) You could hear a pin drop as students looked back at all they had accomplished and all the amazing memories made. Once the video was over, I announced the winner of our semester long competition, the Amazing Food Truck Race, and talked about each team and the growth that I had observed throughout the course of the semester. I also shared favorite memories and gave the students a chance to share as well. The winning team received a personalized apron and their picture on The Legacy Wall that I will be creating before the beginning of next year. After our time of reminiscing about the food truck race, I called up each Senior, handed them a Class of 2017 tumbler filled with candy and shared what I appreciated about each one and my favorite memories. I cried, my students cried, and my heart was full.
There are no words to adequately describe how powerful that time with my students was. We took time to appreciate the journey; reflect on the growth from failures and successes, recognize the strengths of each individual, and savor the memories made. Was my classroom a mess? YES! Was it totally worth it? ABSOLUTELY! This was a school year end that I will not soon forget and hopefully the beginning of many to follow. I have finally figured out the ingredients for a successful school year close... Celebrate and Reflect! It's a magical combination!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.