Everyone knows October is a tough month when you’re a teacher.
Let’s be real, though. It’s not just this month. October through February can be some of the most challenging weeks of the school year.
It’s especially hard on new teachers. The September long-lasting adrenaline rush that comes with a new school year has long since waned. Students are increasingly irritated at their classmates, the hallway bulletins boards are looking a little droopy, the first unit assessment scores are in (it’s not bad, but you were hoping they’d be better), and many teachers are gearing up for their campus administrators to schedule teacher evaluations.
It’s grueling, y’all.
The trauma and the drama seems overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to get you down. Try a few (or all) of these tips for kicking the October (and November through February) blues to the curb.
It’s crazy, but somehow it helps to admit that the next few months are going to be tricky. The best news is that you and your students have what it takes to not only survive, but thrive. Remind yourself that veteran and rookie teachers alike defy this challenge every year and that it won’t get you down.
Slow Things Down a Little
When things get stressful our natural tendency is to speed things up so we can get beyond the offending circumstance. This is precisely the time that you want to take things easy. Give yourself and your students an extra dose of grace. Take a few minutes to make positive phone calls home or jot a quick encouraging note to individual students. Slowing things down will help alleviate some of the panic and dread that October inevitably brings.
Find a positive peer (key word: positive) in your building and spend a few minutes asking them how they make it through these tough “middle months” of each school year. It’s beneficial to process out loud with a colleague on how just a few simple ideas can make these next school weeks run more smoothly.
Stay the Course with Classroom Management
Just like frazzled parents who tend to be more lenient when they’re stressed or things get chaotic at home, teachers feel the same temptation to ease up on classroom management during tough times, too. This is the time to revisit your classroom procedures, class promise (or mission statement). It even helps to have a class meeting and ask students what’s working and what needs to be “tweaked” a little in terms of management in the classroom.
Take a few minutes at least once a week to reflect on what is going well in your classroom. Ask yourself, “What can I celebrate in my instruction that’s going well? What can I celebrate in regard to student learning?” It’s a great exercise to ask your students to do the same. Give them a few minutes to write it on a small piece of cardstock or post-it note and display these “celebrations of learning” in your classroom. Nothing helps dispel discouragement like reflecting on accomplishments you and your students can recount since your school year began.
Every school year has its ups and downs regardless of how many years you’ve taught. Don’t let it sneak up on you and steal your joy! Take a few minutes to try out some of the tips mentioned above and you’ll find yourself with a little more energy and renewed motivation to persevere.
Take care of yourself during these tricky weeks in the middle of the year and in February when spring is around the corner you will be glad you put in the extra effort.
You’ve got this!