Rituals From Afar: End of Year Ceremonies

By: Rachel Levitt Klein Dratch
KC Topics: 
Coronavirus, Pedagogical Approaches, Professional Leadership

Notes from Rituals from Afar, a webinar series on creating new school rituals remotely. 

Wed. April 29, 2020

Creating a new situation- not salvaging something. We are re-envisioning. The positive framework grounds us.
Different purposes and goals may require different programs/ thinking:

  • Saying goodbye to seniors and welcoming them as alumni
  • Saying goodbye to faculty who are leaving
  • Wrapping up the year with appropriate closure and gratitude for what was accomplished
  • Celebrate accomplishments- from traditional awards to less traditional ones so students feel like their effort has been noticed and recognized; it is so important that students do not feel left out
  • Create ritual that BOTH feel familiar (because it is our “style”) but also feels honest about the now that we are in
  • Offer language and perspectives that are honest and empowering 
  • There are different groups we need to consider- and even if we are not fundraising, we owe it to our funders to thank them at this time, as well.
  • Preparing families for what is next- step up ceremonies and previews of the next grade
  • Make school members feel proud of being a part of the schoolThank you


  • Leverage school pride: SWAG, movies, signs (lawn signs, even hand made)
  • Recognize the small things 
  • Recognize the big things
  • Goodbye to the building for seniors/graduates
  • Small group discussions led by guidance teams
  • Ways to show how much we know and learned!
  • Look to the future: Time capsule- what we learned about _____ at this time (ourselves, the world etc.) reflections for families to share with the community, like the 6 word poems or bumper sticker challenge (for this season) or advice
  • Pictures:  how to take yearbook photos: (can be end of year pictures, not only for seniors) and not only for yearbooks
  • Use props to share memories and reflections
  • Clubs and teams- end of year celebrations, bloopers fils, montage, certificates
  • The personal email with specifics 
  • Start small and then get bigger 

For teachers:

  • Teacher appreciation week (May 4-8)
  • How to give honor to those who will not return in the fall- videos from alumni and current students
  • Zoom hangout time to share memories, facilitated. Example: highlight of the school year experience and highlight of my personal teaching
  • Opportunities to reflect on what I learned this year- about myself, my students, my own learning
  • The gift of reflection: what have we learned form this? About ourselves? Our school? How will we be different when we return to the building and what should we keep that is new from this experience?
  • Offer teachers free year long subscription to “Masterclass”
  • Book club
  • Yoga on Sundays
  • Offer choice- see what they want, offer options
  • Yard signs (can be hand made)
  • Happy hour
  • Share positive feedback from parents and students
  • Gift cards and dinners, shabbat food, delivered by administration
  • Staff Game Night -- trivia based on the staff. Teachers submit answers about themselves to prewritten questions and the game is questions about each staff member. 
  • Delivering signs or writing on chalk in front of their house that says "An amazing teacher lives here!" 
  • Admin creating a video where we lipsynch the words to a song about how awesome our teachers are
  • A raffle each day with gift cards for teachers 

For students and families:

  • Moving up ceremonies
  • Zoom memory share using props, or discussion about what I was worried about and how I overcame it...
  • Awards, allow students to nominate one another. Personally deliver to the house?
  • Drop of a welcome box for the next grade which includes some swag, and a certificate and more 
  • Yearbooks- hard copy and virtual
  • Virtual Field Trips
  • Volunteer appreciation
  • Zoom video with teachers who will be on campus in the fall for the NEXT grade to show and explain what happens in this grade and to welcome them
  • Students singing together: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article241408161.html
  • Some type of drive-by so that students can see a member of the school staff or faculty 
  • SIYYUM- pre Shavuot, maybe with a partner school in Israel or with grandpaernts
  • Class parents can organize zoom meetings for parents
  • Have students choose famous people (pre approved) to invite to your virtual end of year parties and see who says yes
  • Have teachers from last year visit zoom rooms of the students to hear how much they have learned this year
  • Older students prepare advice, zoom and movies for younger grades.
  • Student Government make welcome video to incoming families and students
  • Fun celebrations, kahoot, “un prom” dance party

Important things to consider for the fall, if we are able to return to the buildings- what kinds of re-entry do we want? And need?

  • Special prayer of gratitude 
  • Do students start in “last year’s” classroom and move up after a short readjustment period?
  • How do we address families who suffered a loss?
  • What might  social distancing look like?
  • What might it be like if adults and possibly older students are wearing masks?
  • What protocols will be in place for outsiders, including parents, coming into the building? Will this impact any programming?
  • What is our messaging so that the fall seems hopeful?