It never seems to fail; February hits and gone are our dreams of changing the world, of reaching every student. Instead it seems that in the long days of winter in North America our moods mirror the darkness and negativity slowly creeps in. The dreaded slump month is upon us. But it does not have to be that way. Much like having hope is a choice we can make, so is reveling in the negative. Much like we can choose to believe in the possible, we can also choose to believe it will never make a difference, that this year is lost already. Yet we have 4 more months of school to go.
Many of us are worn out at this time of year. Minor ailments, lack of sleep, and the urgency of the year because how will we ever teach them everything seems to pull us down leaving us with little energy. So before we give up or give in here are some ways we can boost our energy again.
Make a little extra time for you. This is the time of year to grab a cup of tea with a friend and perhaps not talk about teaching, to watch a funny movie, or read an amazing book. Color some pages or go for a walk. When the weather is colder here in Wisconsin I tend to withdraw from the outside yet the sunshine that surrounds us on even the coldest days (right now it is 1 degree Fahrenheit) should be enough to boost our mood, but we have to notice the sunshine first and make a choice.
Look at how far they have come. Yes, we may not have solved every single problem, we may not have reached every kid yet or helped them grow in the way we hoped, but the year is not over. Rather than dwell on all the things students have yet to master or the ideas that have failed, purposefully look at how far they have come, how far you have come. Even the hardest kid has probably made some progress. Even the hardest situation has probably improved. We just have been to busy to realize it.
Decide if you are a part of the problem. We all have those days where we need to vent, I get it, but is your venting bringing someone else down? Are you approaching the day like a great challenge or a hardship? Your words and your actions directly influence others and sometimes we forget that. So before you spill all of your frustrations think about how it feels for others to listen to it. Are you looking for help or are you looking to get it off your chest? Be mindful with your words.
Ally up. Find someone who is also feeling the slump and build each other up. Confront the fact that you are feeling worn out and then decide to try to cheer each other up. Make it productive and find ways to boost each other’s energy throughout the day. We laughingly spoke about doing P90X after school last night but now I am thinking that might actually be a really good idea. Find your people and make a pact; no more down, only up.
Embrace this stretch of time. I love this long stretch of time that we get with students between winter and spring break because we can really do some deeper learning and exploration with the students. This uninterrupted stretch of time is not something to despise but something to embrace. What can you invest your time in because you have the time?
Try something new. Now is the time to dust off that crazy idea you learned about this August and try it with students. If you are feeling worn down, think of how the students are feeling.
Smile. It is so easy to get worn out but a lot harder if you smile. I try to smile every single day because smiles are contagious. Even if I don’t feel like it because even though I am sleep deprived thanks to my kids, even though I am sick thanks to this cold, even though I am feeling like not so great of a teacher, I still have the very best job in the world and that deserves a smile any day.
Clean the classroom. Our classrooms seem to gather a lot of things throughout the months so now is a great time to change things up. Wipe everything down, re-arrange, bring in a plant, change your book display, do something to make it feel welcoming and alive again.
Look for solutions rather than problems. This is a mindset change and it can take a lot of effort to do it, but when problems are discussed try to bring up possible ideas rather than add more details about the problem. The way we approach a situation is a decision not something that is forced upon us.
Read a great book. I am currently reading Book Love by the incredible Penny Kittle and I cannot emphasize how much of a difference it is making for my mindset. Penny’s enthusiasm for great literacy instruction mirrors my own but I needed to hear her words right now. We just finished the first ever Passionate Learners book club and the community is still thriving, so read a book and join a book group to get support. You are more than welcome to join ours.
We can give up and assume that this slump is inevitable or we can fight it with everything we got. Becoming aware that we are part of the problem is the first step to fixing it. I made my choice last night as I sat among colleagues laughing so hard I cried. It doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be inevitable.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.