It's hard to say who starts to ease off first, the students or the teachers. Likely it occurs separately and simultaneously but the result is the same. The final few weeks of school, while still instructional and valid, lack something that the rest of the year had. Students are less likely to go above and beyond once they've clinched an A or B, while teachers are less likely to change the seats and push the lazy students to the finish.
But of course, this attitude doesn't really work in other areas of life. You don't start walking in the final mile of a marathon (ok, sometimes you do but you never want to), you don't stop skating in the final minute of the hockey game, and you don't guess wildly in the final round of Jeopardy. The end is supposed to be the pinnacle of achievement, yet too often at school it's the fumes that keep the car moving just long enough to make to the station. Some of this may be due to the "margin of error" mentality we have towards the year. With 182 school days, a few easy ones at the end of the year doesn't seem so bad, we've already had plenty of good ones. Granted, we spent November-March stressed we wouldn't finish the content but now we're zipping through units just to say they were covered, or we're slowing down to make sure everyone is on the same page. If the year were 200 days long, we'd start slacking off at day 180. If the year were only 150 days, we'd quit at 135. Our goals always just outweigh our output.
While it's fun (any teacher knows these are easily the best days of the year), there's improvements that could be made. One way might be to weight grading heavily towards the end of the year, as opposed to our current even system. While assessment along the way is important, we're really most concerned with what they've maintained all year. If a student has been jettisoning information as quickly as they've been taking it in, do they still deserve that A in May just because of some high test scores in February? This is one issue I haven't really seen game-based learning solve either in its current set-up. Too many good students have earned all their points and are enjoying an easy final month. It's a great reward for them, yes, but surely they can excel even further.
Just some thoughts as the final work becomes assembled. My challenge for the rest of the week is to motivate the students just enough that they can complete one final masterpiece before calling it a year.