It’s that most wonderful time of the year. Well, sort of.
Teaching in December can be tricky and sometimes downright difficult. You may find yourself digging deeper and deeper into your bag of tricks. You may need something fresh to keep you and your students on track. You may simply need a break.
You can survive and even thrive in December! Here are four tips to get you through the holiday season.
October and November are often characterized by teachers as a period of survival mode or a time when feelings of disillusionment come to the forefront — the work is hard, the hours are long, and no one has had a break in quite a while. Come on, Thanksgiving break!
Now seems like a great time to talk about teacher wellness and retention. Specifically, about how teachers, new and veteran alike, can take care of themselves in order to remain the fabulous teachers they are for years to come.
Read on, weary teacher. You can do this.
As teachers, we’ve all dealt with days that are particularly tough in the classroom. Unfortunately, we seem to be increasingly faced with teaching in the days and weeks that follow a local or a collective tragedy. For nearly two weeks, Northern California has been ravaged by devastating wildfires — the deadliest in California history. For many at Teaching Channel, the Bay Area is home, and we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can help our friends and neighbors. From making a donation to volunteering your time, if you’re looking for a way to help, you can find a number of great ideas here and here.
Whether local, national, or international in scope, times of crisis can have a significant impact on our students and our classrooms. While the impact is more obvious when students are in direct proximity to the event or personally involved, large-scale national crises, often accompanied by heavy media coverage, can be equally difficult to navigate. The resulting stress and anxiety students — and teachers — bring into the classroom in response to a crisis can affect teaching and learning.
This entry is the seventh and final post in the series #TchWellness.
Over the past two years, I’ve worked diligently to balance my various life roles — mother, teacher, friend, fitness instructor, blogger, etc. Inspired by feelings of complete exhaustion and overwhelming emotion, I’ve been intensely driven to reduce the anxiety I often feel. I was tired of feeling pessimistic and frustrated and wanted nothing more than a feeling of calm and peace.
Worry overwhelmed my mind — Was I right for this job? Should I stay in education? Could I handle the pressure as an educator? And so, the past two years have been full of reading, working out, purging material items, and indulging in caffeinated beverages. Ultimately though, my solace and calm is finally within view.
This entry is the sixth post in the series #TchWellness.
Every September, my desk and office space begin as blank canvases. As I purchase supplies and create materials, I place each item in an organized location. However, as the year progresses, I’m often overwhelmed by paperwork, post-it notes, books to read, projects to complete, and more. Somewhere in all of this, my desk becomes a space for my expansive educational collections and to-do lists rather than a clean, organized retreat where I can mentally focus and be creative.
This entry is the fifth post in the series #TchWellness.
This year, as I continue to focus on issues that impact teacher wellness, I had the opportunity to interview an expert in how we build trusting relationships: Nan Russell, author of Trust Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation. My goal for the interview was to better understand the concept of trust and then work to increase the development of trust in my professional relationships.
Why do I trust some people and not others? As I pondered this question, I initially thought the answer may be connected to likeability. Do I trust people whom I like more? Yet, thinking back to coaches who challenged me during my days as an athlete, I realized I often trusted the coaches who pushed me the most, even if this was at the expense of a more comfortable, lighthearted relationship. I knew it had to be more complex than likeability.
As I interviewed Nan, I asked how teachers could build trust in a world that focuses heavily on performance evaluations that so often work from a deficit model, focusing on what needs to be fixed in our instructional practices.
This entry is the fourth post in the series #TchWellness.
As part of Teaching Channel’s #TchWellness series, I’m connecting with a series of authors who are helping me — and you — understand issues impacting teachers. Our first, Nan Russell, author of Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation, recently sat down with me for an interview. Her work, not limited to education, explores how trust is developed and sustained.
This entry is the third post in the series #TchWellness.
My career as an educator bleeds into every part of my personal life. While reading with my children, I often ask them open ended questions, requiring them to use claim evidence reasoning. One Thanksgiving, I began a clapping pattern, expecting more than 20 guests to match the pattern and give me their undivided attention. Sometimes it’s even challenging to go out in public. My students are seemingly everywhere. While pushing my cart down the aisle, I occasionally hear “Ms. Morey” echoing behind me, and I suddenly tense as I realize the spheres of my personal and professional lives are not all that separate, but intermingled components of a Venn Diagram with a vast area of overlap.
This overlap is most often recognized by my children. They’re sitting beside me as I work through the papers I bring home, prepare for the upcoming week, and strive to stay on top of email and social media updates. My ability to prioritize my role as mom is often compromised by the intense work I engage in at home. When it comes to creating a clear separation between work and home life, I admit, I find it a challenge.
This entry is the second post in the series #TchWellness.
Last year, mid-September, I realized something was missing from my daily appearance — my smile.
Photo: Early Learning HQ
I was going through the motions of teaching and doing an effective job, yet I found myself unable to laugh. It was as if my intense focus on academics masked my enjoyment of teaching, and all at once I realized laughter was absent from my classroom.
Once this enjoyment diminished, it was harder than I imagined to get this fun “groove” back. I desperately wanted to reinstate my internal enjoyment, both for myself, selfishly, but also for my students. I understood that laughter was contagious and would help my students to feel comfortable and content at school. As my to-do list mounted, and I became bogged down with meetings, giving feedback, and writing lesson plans, I became even more desperate for the return of my smile, yet it became only more elusive.
This September, I’m intentionally focusing on play and laughter as my monthly goal. Engaging in more frequent play has already started to make me more relaxed. I’m enjoying my family, finding my own creativity, accepting failure, and developing new friendships. All of this is contributing to a sense of optimism and internal peace, allowing for more frequent smiles.
This entry is the first post in the series #TchWellness.
Routinely, come August, I begin gearing up for a new school year. Hopeful, optimistic, and slightly scared, I plan for everything from bulletin boards to first day introductions to waking up earlier. As a mother, I’m buying backpacks, scheduling daycare, and mentally preparing my children for their new year (this fall I have a kindergartner and a 1st grader). Needless to say, our household is bustling with energy and excitement.
This summer has also allowed me time to reflect on the past school year. Last year, I ran a “Getting Better Together” campaign (#TchStressAway) on reducing stress. One of my final takeaways was that my focus was inherently incorrect. While I focused on reducing my stress, I learned my energy really needed to be spent finding strategies to adequately manage the stress that was unavoidable. Now when I encounter stressful moments, I’ve mentally prepared for them and use the feelings of adversity to propel me forward and awaken me to new opportunities on the horizon.