by Dr. Bryan Drost
I don’t know what it is, but the month of March seems to suck no matter what role I have played in education: student, student teacher, classroom teacher, principal, curriculum director, county curriculum director. Kids get on our last nerves, staff members threaten to quit, testing anxiety is amongst us all, behavior referrals are up, and the threat of not being able to make an institutional impact weighs heavily on administrators.
Maybe it is a result of the rollercoaster weather that we seem to experience in northeast Ohio (last week we had a sunny, near 70-degree day and followed by a next day drop to 20 with blizzard-like conditions, only to be followed by the next day with spring showers). If it isn’t that, maybe it is a microcosm of Huberman’s teacher life cycle (1989). Personally I think it might be a function of not having a day off between President’s Day and spring break. (My superintendent friends and colleagues out there, take note!)
Now it isn’t likely that the school calendar will change any time soon, but there are things that we as educators can do to help drag us out of the PITS. I encourage you to try these as we enter that period of year where we think, “I should have listened to my parents and found a different career!”
P = Play some music in your classroom. Kids as much as teachers need variety in the classroom. This is the perfect time to engage with students in various ways while you’re reviewing key concepts, and what better way than to incorporate music? I’m partial right now to this song on mathematical practices that is great for reminding students what they need to do when they attack challenging problems in the math classroom. If you are a language arts teacher try this one related to writing types. If you yourself just need a break, check out any of the carpool karaoke songs with James Corden; you’ll be glad you did!
I – Institute mindfulness into your classroom. Yes, I know it’s a buzzword right now, but it really does help to create calm and manage stress for both adults and kids alike. If you check out this website here, there are great activities to help support students’ focus. I really like the mindful or mindless character analysis activity (why not hit some standards while we are taking time to breathe), or the marble roll activity (which reinforces problem solving skills in math class). You can also add in any of the strategies here with rich math tasks found on Achievethecore or Illustrativemath.
T = Take time to learn about your students. I had the pleasure of being in a social studies classroom last week. As I watched this teacher, he took one minute out of his class period to ask kids about anything that was on their minds. Interestingly, this was a technique that I learned from one of my most treasured professors of education; ironically, we both found out we graduated from the same undergrad program nearly 20 years apart! Not only does this technique help you remember why you are an educator, it helps you find innovative ways that can connect kids to your content. One student’s question that I overheard was related to congressional changes to national healthcare. This turned into quick lesson on principles of American government. Student motivation up, teacher frustration down!
S = Schedule yourself for a conference. When I started teaching, my second-year teaching mentor (don’t ask me why I didn’t have a first-year teaching mentor!), recommended that I schedule a conference in the month of March. At that time, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving sub plans, grading when I came back, etc. He finally broke my stubbornness down, and I am so glad he did because it has proven to be my best trick for keeping myself sane during the spring revival. Do take those two days to go rejuvenate at a local, state, or national professional learning event. You don’t have to commit yourself to presenting (lesson learned there multiple times), but you will feel better as you engage in conversation with educators across your content area. It may be a bit too late to schedule that this year, due to purchase order deadlines, etc., but I strongly recommend that you book yourself for this for next year now! It does wonders for the soul.
It’s entirely possible to beat the spring blues by following these four ideas: Play some music, Institute mindfulness, Take time to learn about your students, and Schedule yourself for a conference. These changes of pace and perspective can make a huge difference in our moods and attitudes as we enter the final stretches of the school year.
What classroom challenge have you faced recently? Would you like to share a story of how you’ve solved problem related to standards, instruction, and assessment in your classroom? Do you have a specific problem you’re facing, and you’d like to know how other teachers have solved that problem? Use this link to share your ideas with us, and you could see your own blog posted here, or read about how others have solved that problem in their classrooms.