The End of a School Year: Finishing Strong

Join the #LastBell Movement!

By World Language Teacher and Guest Blogger Michele Hill

Students, staff and administrators across the country are running in their final lap of the school year. Much like long distance runners approaching the finish line, we are tired — all of us! The end-of-the year fatigue is creeping in, only to be exasperated by the additional activities, obligatory celebrations, required accountability actions and the change in the season. The countdown is on! Students, and unfortunately staff as well, know exactly how many school days are left; some staff members post it on their bulletin boards giving the impression that they, too, are already done! Most people appear to be coasting along, dreaming of the days with no alarm clocks and time to pursue things that bring them joy, without the insanity of tight schedules and obligations.

But what message are we sending our students? — and more importantly, what are we modeling for them about finishing strong? “You wouldn’t dive into the pool for a race and stop in the middle, would you?, Would you hit a home run and just stand at home plate?” Of course not! We should finish what we started with the same enthusiasm and contagious energy as we began! Let’s keep them learning until the #lastbell.

Being a connected educator, I was fortunate to forge bonds with some incredible school leaders who gave me the privilege of presenting alongside of them at The ASCD National Conference in Anaheim, California this past spring. Our topic was “Leadership is a Team Sport”, and although I am not an administrator, these passionate women: Jennifer Hogan, Lisa Dabbs and Deb Campbell, welcomed me as a leader and reminded me that my voice as a teacher is an important one. Last year, these ladies, along with Becky Ince, were contemplating how to keep students and staff from losing all of the positive momentum exuded in the beginning of the year as the final days approach. They teamed up to create a commitment to teaching and learning until the very end. The idea of the #lastbell was born! They took to Twitter and it went viral! Educators around the world were challenged with sharing ideas that would help sustain the explosive energy of making learning fun and relevant, right up until the end.

Although I was not part of this ingenious movement last year, I plan to be this year. We owe it to ourselves and our students to finish strong! Whether you are an administrator, teacher or other staff member, check out some of the ways you can wrap up the school year with the same excitement and energy as you began:

  • Let’s student lead. Step back and guide the magic!
  • Try something new each week. Step outside of your comfort zone and explore different ways to fail forward. Celebrate risk taking!
  • Project Based Learning is great at this time of the year. Students can pursue individual passions while learning real problem-solving skills and developing new skills.
  • Pump up the jam! Boast about all of the great things going on in your school.
  • Reteach important concepts in fun ways in a non-graded environment.
  • Go global. Connect your students with students around the world.
  • Encourage staff to expand their PLN through social media. Host an Appy Hour for staff to try new educational Apps in a casual and fun setting.
  • Get competitive. Everybody likes a little healthy competition. Develop ways for staff to showcase the great things that they are doing and award prizes.
  • Send out Cheer notes or word of encouragement to keep everyone focused.
  • Praise your students and staff. There is never such a thing as too much praise!

The important thing is to keep learning happening in your school, right up until the #lastbell. It matters!

Visit the site below for more information on the movement!

Michele Hill, World Language and Special Education Teacher

Michele Hill is a passionate educator in her 24th year of teaching–students first, curriculum second. Michele teaches Spanish as well as a special program working with At-Risk students that she affectionately refers to as At-Promise students. Throughout her career as an educator, Michele has been an advocate for struggling and impoverished students; she works diligently to create an environment where all students can succeed. Michele has written articles for ASCD and MCGraw-Hill. In addition to presenting and facilitating professional development on a variety of educational topics. This year, Michele will be presenting at the NJEA conference in November in Atlantic City, NJ. You can follow her on Twitter @HillMrispo or

To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

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