Stayin' Alive, Part II
If I Can Just Make It Until Spring Break
You survived first semester. Had time to breathe over the holidays. And January marked a new beginning - you were ready to face the last half of the year.
Suddenly it's two months later and you can't wait for Spring Break. You find yourself daydreaming and thinking—
"Our school needs more assemblies."
"If we could just have one more snow day."
Well, get a grip, because you'll soon be facing—
- Parents worried about their kids failing
- Final grades and recommendations
You need some strategies to help you make it through to the end of the year.
Here are some ideas to help you lift your spirits, support a fellow teacher, and get ready for testing:
1. Read through your "De-Stress File." If you haven't created one yet, see Stayin' Alive for some ideas.
2. Take the time to reflect on what you've accomplished this year. Whether you plan to teach next year or not, it's important for your future that you reflect on what you have accomplished and what you have learned. In the trenches, you learn a lot quickly. Make a list. Celebrate the successes (including the so-called "failures" that were lessons for you).
3. Do something now to help a new teacher next year.
- Start a notebook with a list of things you've learned so far this year. If you made a list for #2 above, use it as a starting point.
Include phrases like "I learned that not all kids will like me and that doesn't bother me anymore" and "My team decided to focus on using 'I' messages, and the kids have really responded positively" and "X method helped me establish a routine so that I didn't have to keep reminding students to Y."
Make a list of things you wish you'd known at the start of the year.
Write a paragraph about each success you had, like how you met special needs of students or handled the requests of parents. Describe activities that you had surprising success with.
- Keep adding to the list until the end of the year.
- Mid-July, edit the list. Make it into a little booklet or binder that you can present to a beginning teacher in August.
It's reassuring for beginning teachers to see another teacher's honest reactions to teaching. And to see that teachers are always learning.
When you're a new teacher, two of the hardest lessons are: accepting the fact that you don't know everything—and realizing that no one ever expected you to.
4. Prepare yourself for testing season.
- Find out more about student assessment and testing in general. Why we do it. What we learn. How we teach from there. For an overview on the subject, see Student Assessment and Testing. For a list of books available for purchase, see NEA Books on Assessment.
- Study the implications of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) —also called the No Child Left Behind Act—on testing.
- Learn about the accommodations for students with disabilities. See Testing for Students with Disabilities under ESEA/NCLB.
Address the facts—your energy and enthusiasm are low right now. Spring Break is just around the corner. Tests are just around the corner. Do a little research and reflection. Make some preparations. And you'll be out of the doldrums in no time and back on track.
About the Author
Karen Zauber taught elementary school in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and Denver, Colorado. She has worked for the National Education Association for 12 years.