It is standard practice in the profession to suddenly announce, “Only 23 more days left of school!” Everyone does it. Even those near and dear to Mr. Peabody. However, I’ll tell you why I don’t count the days: it doesn’t help. Even worse: it makes the last chapter last an eternity. Worst of all: it leads to imploding behavior (yours and theirs).
I prefer an approach more closely aligned with the buffalo, or rather the native hunters, deceptively leading their prey off the bluff. I learned this strategy while in Montana, where I crossed the border into Alberta and visited a great place called “Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump.” (Worth a visit for the simple fact they answer the phone in the gift shop with a glib “Head Smashed In?”).
Now, of course, my students are not prey. They are truly the warriors and knowledge is their buffalo. But hit this analogy with a few hammers and squint your eyes and stay with me. Like the Blackfoot warriors of Montana, I also have the greatest of respect for my prey. But imagine if the Blackfoot warriors kept calling out, “That’s it, Little Buffaloes, only 23 more feet ’til the cliff!”
That’s all I’m saying. Look to the Blackfoot. And like our great Father, the insurance companies, deny all claims. If (when) your students ask, “Are we having an end of the year party?!” consider changing the subject. Come back at them with, “We’ll talk about that when we get there (exuding: whenever THAT is). We’ve got a LOT of work to do yet. Today we’re starting this NEW thing, NEW project, NEW unit.”
So there you have it. Lead them (and yourself) calmly and quietly off the bluff, all the while denying all claims. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I guarantee you will have better behavior in your classroom until the very end, your energy level will hold steady longer, and you will hit the summer running, feet pumping joyfully off the cliff, plunging into your vacation like the Sundance Kid.