A few weeks ago, a fellow teacher blogger wrote about how April and May are the worst months for her. At this point, testing is over, but there are still some weeks left before the end of the school year. There are no more snow days or long weekends to break up the long days, and school programs and events seem to pile up during this time. It can get quite stressful, especially when you’re not only trying to keep up a good attitude, but also trying to keep the learning momentum going and the students just aren’t having it.
As teachers, I think we all go through this at some point of the year. For me, personally, having worked at a school with extended days and an extended school year, there were moments where I didn’t think I would see the end of it! However, over the past few years, I’ve picked up a few pointers from veteran teachers and positive psychology authors to help me beat the slump.
Do you want to know how to get over it? Choose positivity. Most, if not all, positive psychology and happiness books will tell you that happiness is a choice. Positivity is a choice. You choose to focus on what’s right, and what’s good with your life. You make a plan by making small changes, and you make these small positive changes into daily habits.
So, when I hit my mid-year or end-of-year teaching slump, I find myself relying more and more on these particular positive habits.
Positive habit #1: Make a “Good Morning” song playlist (and play it loud).
Confession: I am not a morning person. Well, at least, not until I have had a cup of coffee and some quiet time to get myself together. I have found that listening to upbeat happy songs in the shower and while eating breakfast gets me in a happy mood, so I made it a habit to listen to music in the morning—anything that can get me to sing and dance! This definitely wakes me up, and sets the tone of the day for me.
Positive habit #2: Meditate before you begin your day.
Okay, another confession, I can’t meditate. I’ve tried and tried so many times, but my mind just goes all over the place. So when I say meditate, I really mean, try to find a way to find just five minutes to yourself where you can find some quiet and reflect upon your intentions for the day. For me, this is where I go to my prayer closet and read a page from my daily devotional before I leave for work. Sometimes I may run late, so when I don’t get a chance to do this, I use my commute time to pray quietly in my car and give myself a pep talk about how great my day is going to be, and how I’m going to make it a great day for someone else! Just find some quiet place and try to ground yourself, whatever works for you.
Positive habit #3: Surround yourself with positive people.
It’s the law of attraction– like attracts like. If you’re positive in attitude and expect good things, you’re going to attract positive people, and create situations that conform to your positive expectations. One of the first things I love to do when I get in to work in the morning is to check in with my colleagues and ask them how they are doing. While I wait for my laptop to boot up, I make my rounds to different floors and say hello to everyone. During my lunch break, I don’t hide away or work over my laptop. I walk around, check in with admin, and talk to friends. Some of my best lessons have come from these rounds because I get to talk to people from other departments. We share ideas, feedback, and collaborate on projects. This would never have happened if I stuck to toxic work areas and kept to myself!
Positive habit #4: Allow yourself to laugh more.
By this point in the year, I’ve been with my students long enough to get to know their personalities and quirks. I used to think that I had to be “on” all the time, meaning that I had to keep my strict teacher face on every single second. It took me awhile to learn that students respond best when they know you’re human, that they can connect with you, and that despite all that, you’re still the teacher who expects them to their best every day. These kids are really funny, and some of my favorite laugh-out-loud moments happen when we get together in the classroom.
Positive habit #5: Push yourself to do something different.
While the previous habits were mostly personal, this last habit is more for my teaching profession. To get myself through the slump, I try to step outside the instruction box and do something different for the last 2-3 months of school. Last year, I tried the Code Blue Human Body Systems Unit. This year, I’ve tried the flipped classroom. I’m also trying to pull together a STEM Family Fair or a short CSI Forensics program in June. When I try something new, I get to rev up my brain and get my creative juices flowing. I get over the slump because now I’m getting excited over what I’m doing. It’s like planning for a vacation— you look forward to doing something and you anticipate it!
These are five positive ways I have found to help me get through the end of the school year. What are some of the things that have worked for you?
Image Credit: “Sunflower Field” by Skykisser