Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

How to Make the Last Day of School Count

Why happy endings are so important
By Angela Duckworth — June 14, 2023 1 min read
What advice do you have for the end of the school year?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Ask a Psychologist will run biweekly during the summer.

What advice do you have for the end of the school year?

Finish strong! Here’s something I wrote about the topic for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

Even now, I have vivid memories of my last day of high school. Do you?

In my mind’s eye, I’m cleaning out my locker, then staring at the emptiness for a few extra beats before slamming it shut for the last time. I’m roaming the halls with my best friend, blissfully ignoring the bells going off every 50 minutes on schedule because, just today, we’re allowed to break the rules. I’m sitting on my desk, swinging my feet, and shooting the breeze with my English teacher, Mr. Carr, in a way that makes me feel almost grown up.

It’s maybe my favorite day of the whole year. And like the final layer of watercolor, the freedom and lightness I feel seeps into the rest of my memories of that day and turns them just a shade rosier.

If the school year hasn’t yet ended for your kids, consider what you can do to make the finale count. Why?

Because when it comes to human memory, not all moments are created equal. Instead, our remembered experiences are disproportionately influenced by peaks (the best moments as well as the worst) and endings (the last moments). Nobel laureate Danny Kahneman, who discovered this phenomenon, dubs this the peak-end rule of hedonic experience.

I took advantage of the peak-end rule years ago, when my girls were young enough to want a bedtime story each night. I remember thinking that whatever strife and stress had occurred that day, I could make the last moments count. I could end on a note of calm and act like the patient mom I hadn’t quite managed to be just hours before.

Don’t mistake all moments as equal in significance. There’s a reason why yoga classes end with savasana. There’s a reason we eat dessert last.

Do orchestrate endings. As Seattle Seahawks coach and (Character Lab adviser) Pete Carroll might say: Finish strong. Last impressions are especially lasting.

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being The Influential Allies These Schools Are Enlisting to Boost Attendance
A newly formed group of school districts will rely on the help of their communities to craft absence-fighting strategies.
4 min read
Back of a teen girl walking home from school while wearing a backpack with one strap hanging off her shoulder.
Student Well-Being Teens Are Looking for Mental Health Support Online. What That Means for Schools
Young people are turning to websites, social media, and apps for mental health support.
4 min read
Hand holding a mobile phone with an app asking "What is Your Mood Today? Measure Your Mental State" with a blue "Let's Explore" button
Student Well-Being Q&A How to Address Parents' Concerns That SEL Goes Against Their Values
A Texas instructional coach shares insights she has learned from talking with hesitant parents.
3 min read
Illustration concept of emotional intelligence, showing a woman balancing emotion control using her hand to balance smile and sad face icons.
Student Well-Being Pause Before You Post: A Social Media Guide for Educators in Tense Political Times
5 tips for educators and their students to avoid making harmful or false statements online that they later regret.
6 min read
Tight crop of a man's hands using a mobile phone with the popup box that reads "Delete post, Are you sure you want to delete this post? Cancel or Delete"
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty