By Teachers, For Teachers
It’s that time of year again. The months between winter break and spring break can feel like the longest days of a teacher’s life. But don’t despair! Here are some ways to snap yourself – or your students – out of that slump.
Change Your Personal Routine
Most of us have a predictable morning routine – get ready, get to school, get some coffee, head to the classroom, stare at the computer or lesson plan book and think, “What was I teaching this morning?” Change it up! Drive to work a different way. Put on some music you enjoy. Listening to one song you really like can change your mood.
Check In with Your Students
Maybe you’re not the only one in a slump. Take some time to check in with your students, especially if you’re teaching middle or high schoolers. It might be better for all concerned if you postponed that due date by another week, just this once.
Try a New Lesson Plan
Most teachers have some lesson plans lying around that they’d love to try someday. But why wait? Experimenting with a new lesson forces you to shift gears as a teacher and may be just what you need to wake yourself up.
Build in “Stress Busters”
Sadly, today’s kids may be almost as stressed as their teachers. If that describes your students, build in time for “stress busters.” This could be anything from a guided relaxation exercise to a brief energizer game. There are tons of activities out there for all ages. This isn’t wasting time -- you’re teaching your students valuable life skills: how to manage stress, how to take a break and then re-focus their energies. They’ll need those skills to survive college and their careers. So go ahead -- take a break!
There are daily Stress Buster tips on the Teacher Tips page (just scroll down and look at the left sidebar).
Take a “Field Trip”
Of course a real field trip would be ideal, but don’t feel trapped in the classroom if your budget is tight. How about an on-campus field trip? Teach your class in the library, the cafeteria, the computer lab, or out-of-doors? The change in environment could help your lessons. Maybe the extra space would let students spread out more as they work in groups. Maybe you can find a new way of teaching math concepts using the plants or the playground equipment. It will take a little advance planning, but your students will talk about it for days.
Make Time for Yourself
Most teachers spend a lot of time giving to other people -- to their students, the students’ parents, their colleagues, not to mention their own families. You need to take some time for yourself. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Do something that has no educational value and just enjoy it. The classroom will still be there tomorrow, but after a break, you’ll be more ready to face it.
Do Something Unexpected
Kids love “opposites day” because it’s all about the unexpected. So why not do something unexpected in your lessons? If you teach in a self-contained classroom, change up your daily order of activities. If you are a single subject teacher, team up with another teacher to really get the kids’ attention. Maybe two teachers can switch classes to teach a favorite story or poem. Have the history teacher come into the English classroom to teach background about the time period the new assigned reading is set in, or have the foreign language teacher explain basic math concepts in Spanish. Seeing how your colleagues teach and interact with the students may give you some new ideas, and working with them will require you to shift out of your comfort zone.
Let the Kids Take Over (briefly)
Sometimes it’s nice not to make all the decisions. If you’re teaching older students, set up a series of lessons they can teach each other. This can be a great review activity. Give them a time limit and some guidelines (they must do a hands-on activity, they must include a quiz, etc) and grade them on whether they explained the topic correctly and followed the guidelines.
For younger students, consider letting them vote on what assignment they want to do or when they want to do it. Give them a few choices (for example, “We need to do vocabulary review. Do you want to use flash cards, write sentences, or play a review game?”) and let them choose. It will snap them out of a slump and give you a change of pace.
Set Up a Reward
No, students can’t expect a reward for everything they do. But many adults reward themselves after finishing a difficult task. So once in awhile, try that in your classroom. Tell students that if they collectively achieve something (everyone gets a certain grade on a test, everyone gets their assignment done by a certain time, etc.), there will be a reward. Explain to students that they won’t always get rewards, but in this case they can, because they’ve been working hard. It will give all of you something to look forward to.
Spice Up Your Classroom
Sometimes changing your surroundings can help. Can you put the desks in a different order? Move where your desk is in the room? Change student desk assignments? Pick up some new posters? Re-do a bulletin board? Maybe bring in a potted plant or a vase of flowers? Add something to your room that will make you happy.
Bring the Real World In
If you’re looking for activities to keep your students’ attention (and your own), look to the outside world. Invite in a guest speaker or have students do an activity using stories from a newspaper or magazine. Try TeachHUB’s Video Writing Prompts or Pop Culture Lesson Plans for fun and easy ways to bring the real world into your classroom.
Re-commit & Re-focus
Take a moment to remind yourself why you got into teaching. Reading a letter from a former student can brighten your day, and Taylor Mali’s poetry about teachers is accessible, funny, and guaranteed to make you remember why you got into this job in the first place. Rekindling that passion can see you through the toughest slump.
How do you snap out of a slump? Share in the comments section!