June 4, 2021
While your students may be buzzing to start their summer break, for teachers and faculty, the end of the 2020-2021 school year brings its own unique to-do list on a tight timeline.
Educators are juggling virtual end-of-school-year celebrations and send-offs with the logistics of completing a full curriculum, gathering and organizing school devices, and preparing for next year.
We’ve collected tips for IT staff, teachers, and other school faculty to help ensure that your school year gets wrapped up across the board.
The end of the year is a busy time for IT staff, who are tasked with collecting and inventorying every school-owned device used this year. In a year marked by remote education, this task is monumental.
Don’t go in without a plan. Work with your district IT leaders to define which team members are responsible for which steps, how communication will be sent to students and parents, and target dates for the collection process.
Begin communicating the expectations and timelines for returning school devices as soon as you can. Post announcements on the school’s website, send out emails and print notices to parents, and plan multiple reminders as the key dates approach.
You may even set up push notifications to the school-owned devices themselves, which can pop up on key dates to remind students how many days before they must return the device. In your communications, make it clear what the consequences will be if a device isn’t returned by the deadline, including if and when these will be reported to law enforcement as missing.
District IT leaders should define a cybersecurity plan for devices that aren’t collected on time, to ensure the safety and privacy of school data.
Will IT be able to freeze or lock school-owned devices after a certain date? Do you have tracking technology installed that can help you locate unreturned devices and follow up more actively with the students in question? In the case of a device that has gone missing entirely, at what point will the IT team make the call to disable the device altogether?
While your students may be counting down the weeks, you’re counting up the remaining lessons in this year’s curriculum. In a school year that spanned a global pandemic, with disruptive transitions from in-person learning to remote education (and back), it’s unrealistic to expect yourself and your students to spend equal time on every curriculum item.
Rather than rushing your pace or doubling up on assignments, make a new plan for the remaining weeks. Review what’s left in your curriculum, and assess which areas can give your students the most value. What skills do they need to be prepared for next school year? Prioritize the most valuable pieces for their success.
What exercises can you shorten, to get to the heart of the lesson? Where can you trim the fat? Aim to make each lesson as simple as possible, so you can spend more time helping your students grasp it.
Rather than having your students skim through assigned reading, focus on a section of the text in depth. Instead of squeezing in five math quizzes, spend more time applying the math concepts together.
To end a year’s worth of learning on a strong note, highlight the progress your students have made.
Review this year’s lessons and allow students to ask follow-up questions. Assign a reflection exercise in which students write down their favorite lessons from this year and what they’re proud of. Have your students revisit an assignment that you gave earlier in the year and do it anew — this can be a great way for students to see with their own eyes that their skills really have improved.
Reflecting on progress helps your students end the year on a positive note, feel encouraged and motivated as they enter a new school year, and celebrate what you’ve all accomplished this year despite the challenges.
This is also a good time to reflect on your own achievements. With all the curveballs this year, it’s easy to feel like the year wasn’t “successful.”
Rather than comparing your past years of teaching (which very notably didn’t include a pandemic), take stock of what you did accomplish this year: What new tools or skills did you pick up that you didn’t know before? How did you support your students in distance learning? Which tools and strategies do you want to bring into next year? Which do you want to leave behind or replace next year?
If your school will be streaming a recorded or real-time graduation or end-of-school year activity, the IT team should prepare the network to support the number of people who will be connecting at the same time. This includes checking all wireless access points, and ensuring you have enough bandwidth for streaming without running into connectivity issues.
You’ve made it to the end of the school year, with remote teaching on video calls, virtual classrooms, learning platforms, and more — don’t get lax with virtual events just because it’s the end of the year. One of the worst-case interruptions to your virtual end-of-school-year celebration would be a cyberattack that puts your students’ and school’s privacy at risk.
Prepare a contingency plan in case of an unexpected disruption or delay in virtual school-hosted events. Work with your tech vendors to outline their response plans for cyberattacks and what steps they can take to help you keep your events secure. This plan should include a strategy for communicating to parents and students on the day-of, and steps to move forward to secure the school’s data.
Educators understandably want to make their students feel special at the end of the year. While sharing photos and memories from the year can be a great way to recognize students, be diligent about privacy whenever sharing student information through digital channels.
Before the end of school year activities, refresh your leadership, teachers, and faculty on FERPA guidelines for what is acceptable to share and how to share it safely. You may even consider sending out consent forms for families to sign before participating in virtual events, or before having their student’s photo or information used in a school celebration.
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