As you can probably tell from my lack of blogging, the last week or so has been a doozy. I’ve been trying to remember if this is typical for the end of the first quarter, but I’ve just been feeling SUPER overwhelmed at work and “behind” in just about every area of my life. At times like this – and everyone hits them at some point – I start questioning whether I can keep up, if maybe I’m “not cut out for this” anymore, and if, perhaps, I should look for a less “demanding” job. BUT, deep down, I know I’m in the right place. This too shall pass.
This post is as much for me as it is for you; but, maybe you get it… Maybe you’re here too. Whether you’re overwhelmed with “to dos” like I am or simply have a class you’re struggling to connect with, I hope you’ll find some inspiration in the 7 tips I’m sharing below.
We ALL get stuck. We ALL have hard classes sometimes or dig a hole that feels too deep to climb out of. Thankfully, it’s never too late to set things right.
This seems pretty basic, but it cannot be stressed enough. When I’m overwhelmed, my natural tendency is to want to fuel up on caffeine and push through in the name of “getting stuff done.” Sleep seems counter-active to my massive To Do List. BUT, nine times out of ten, that list seems SO much more manageable after a good night’s sleep. I am kinder, less stressed out, and MUCH more productive when I’m taking care of myself and getting the rest my body (and brain) needs. Write it on your list. Go to bed.
You know the drill : if something isn’t working, stop doing it / get rid of it. Move a set of papers to the next nine-weeks. Throw out a unit that feels too rushed or random. Give up on a routine or discipline plan that doesn’t seem to be cutting it for a particular class (like that time I stupidly tried to keep up with “tickets” for bathroom breaks). Ask your principal to take you off of a committee. I tell my students all the time that the best students (and, in this case, teachers), know that sometimes something simply has to give. If you can’t keep up, take something off your plate. Consider this your permission. *If you’re overwhelmed and can’t feasibly do this at school/work, consider taking something off your plate at home or in your personal life instead. You can cook dinner/represent the Junior League/train for a half marathon later.
This may not work for everyone, but I find that being honest and sincere with my students (and my bosses if needed) goes a long way. Apologize for the essay you still haven’t returned from the second week of school. Admit that you are human and fall behind sometimes too. *Most* of the time, students appreciate this vulnerability and will give you some grace (especially if you extend the same to them once in a while). If you aren’t connecting with a class, tell them. Be gentle and kind, but be honest. Tell them that you are frustrated/disappointed/concerned and ASK them what needs to happen to fix the issues. Give them a chance to voice their frustrations and concerns too. Listen.
The way to a student’s heart is through his/her stomach. 😉 Never underestimate the power of homemade muffins (or store-bought cookies) with kids. I recommend pairing treats with the above conversation. Tell your kids (with food) that, though things may be rocky, you still care about them. *Or, I suppose, if your stress has nothing to do with kids, just give yourself a chocolate chip muffin and call it day. 😉
It’s simple and old-school, but it works. If your class is being unruly and difficult, make a new seating chart and switch things up. (Try number 3&4 first or WITH this strategy for optimal results.)
If all else fails, take a day off. Mental Health Days are FOR REAL folks. Sure, teachers have snow days, summers, and some obscure holidays off, but our job is, literally, NEVER done. It is demanding and exhausting – both physically and mentally. Sometimes, you just need some time to yourself to re-charge and/or catch up. If you have kids, send them to daycare for the day, then sleep-in, drink coffee and watch the morning shows in your pjs, go for a long walk, and – if you feel up to it – try to tackle some things on your list or spend some time thinking about your next steps with a class in a comfortable and relaxed environment. (Bonus points for getting the meanest sub if you’re breaking from a difficult class. 😉 They will appreciate you so much when you come back!)
In the end, remember that you CAN start over. Every day is new. Personally, I’m a big fan of using the start of each nine-weeks (when I’m finally caught up on grading) as a fresh start. It’s a great time to review class procedures and policies and to create a new grading schedule or routine for yourself. Sometimes, I’ll even tell my students – “Look, we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot, but let’s start over.” They get that. Whatever you do, DON’T let yesterday’s issues keep you from moving forward. Don’t hold a grudge.
Good luck teacher-friend!
Do you have any ideas for starting over?!? I’d love to hear them!!! Questions about teaching etc.? Email me!!! (email@example.com)
P.S. A few more posts about grading, workload, classroom management, and hard days:
3 Tips for Surviving the Teacher WorkLoad and Staying Sane
Golden Rules for High School Classroom Management (more on classroom management)