If the school year has flown by but now is creeping along, you’re not alone. Many teachers this time of year are teaching students who are anxious about the school year ending and summer just around the corner. To help you and your students stay focused and productive to the end of the year, several national writers have shared tips you can use in your classroom to not only make it to the end of the year, but to enjoy every minute of it.
by Katt Blackwell
Most of us have only weeks left before the end of the semester. Some of us are reaching that weary point of exhaustion and stress that always come with a mound of papers that won’t grade themselves, more classes to teach, and not enough energy to do both (and finish coursework for those of us still on the education track). Here are a few ideas for de-stressing in these final weeks of school.
You have some time before final grades need to be in. Sure, the pile is calling your name, but I highly recommend you follow the method one of my colleagues recommends. Set a goal to grade 4 or 5 individual papers (or tests each day). By the end of the week, that pile will be significantly smaller.
If you just can’t set aside the time to grade those papers a little at a time, throw a grading party for yourself and several of your colleagues. You have to be careful who you invite, though. If you know that one of your colleagues is going to talk through the entire thing and keep you from getting nothing done, it’s probably not a good idea to invite that one. You can discreetly plan the gathering via email or phone calls. Then, order a pizza, set a specific time line for grading and then reward yourself for getting some of the grading done. My colleagues and I plan to grade for about three hours and then, at the end of the session, we’ll go out for coffee or some other relaxing treat.
There is no written rule that says you simply must accomplish everything right now. If you’re feeling overcome by the stress, take a break. Go to the local bookstore and browse the best sellers. Buy a new book. Take a stroll in the park. Go to the zoo. Get a pedicure. Whatever you choose, vow to yourself that while you’re engaged in this activity you will not think about the pile of things to do at home. If you don’t think it’s possible, invite a friend that you don’t work with. You have a chance to get caught up on each other’s lives and it will keep you from thinking about the “to-do” list at home.
I understand that this only works really well for those of us who are true “Type-A” personalities, but I think it can be rewarding for everyone. Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then cross each thing off when you get through with it. It’s always rewarding to see the list getting smaller.
This is my last (and favorite suggestion). I love to plan a day of just talking to my students about their papers and then, instead of keeping them cooped up beneath the florescent lights in the classroom, I’ll take them outside. It’s a great way to get students a bit more relaxed, relieve some stress, and get them geared up for the rest of class. I did this with my students yesterday and the results were amazing. They talked about their papers and asked a lot of questions. We were outside for over an hour and yet they seemed to think only a few minutes had gone by. This is always a method for not only de-stressing the instructor, but the student as well. Besides, sunshine :)
With just two weeks left until the end of the school year, you may already be wondering just how it is possible to get to the end without becoming batty. Since summer is soon upon us, students continue to have their own excuses for not putting 100 percent effort. And of course, there are more non-school related activities that may distract them. Perhaps you already for example, teach fewer students because of some of these “distractions.”
So how can you keep it together and still thrive in the classroom? This guide will show you how:
When it comes to canceled lessons and other unpredictable and school-related matters, there is really nothing you and I can do about it. Keep your cool and continue as best you can. As the old saying goes, “pick your battles wisely.” Fighting the system will only make your job harder but there are plenty of things you can do that aren’t just about surviving in the classroom.
So what if other teachers seem to have better control of their classes? It might take you an entire year to develop a classroom management plan that is effective for your class, but again, so what? You are unique.
The trick is to continue teaching important educational and subject skills (not just those that are test-related) in a fun and motivating way. (see #9,#10)
Set your intentions for success especially during the last few months of the school year when time and curriculum constraints and high-stakes testing can wear you down. As Suzanne Lieurance says, “have every thought, statement and action reflect that all day long. Teachers know that they generally get what they expect of their students. What someone says about you can help you create a totally different and new expectation for yourself – so get a friend to write out a positive statement about you. Then notice how you strive to LIVE according to that statement every day.”
Don’t compromise on fun and meaningful activities that make you feel good about yourself. Start each day in an empowering and confident way. Don’t succumb to the pressures but rather accept them for what they are, realizing that they too, shall pass.
In times of difficulty, you’ll need a supportive network of teachers and other professionals with whom you can reach out, vent and share your successes.Professional isolation, especially towards the end of the school year, is an enemy. Plus, you’ll probably get some nifty ideas for your own teaching.
Remember the law of attraction – positive attracts positive. Don’t say: “I wish my classes were be easier to teach at this time of year” or, “I wish I didn’t have to go through this…” because you’re still focusing on those negative elements and affirming to yourself that they are there. Instead, focus on the positive in your teaching: the ability to inspire and motivate students and teachers.Write down these affirmations in a place where you can see them every morning as you begin your day. They might even empower you.
Adapt classroom management skills and instruction to suit new classroom situations. This requires a great deal of flexibility and teacher intuition to know what skills you need to be using at a given moment. For example, if you find yourself teaching a small class for one lesson, provide interesting and well-paced lessons to suit small groups of students.
Some classes may need a Plan B and even Plan C. There’s nothing wrong with over planning.
When planning interesting and motivating lessons, ask yourself: what resources are available to you? You may wish to use the computer room to supplement a reading lesson. Click here to read “5 Lesson Planning Tips on How to Use Technology Successfully in Your Classroom.” If you don’t have a computer room available at your disposal, plan games as part of authentic instruction. (Don’t overdo them, either!)
Use a lot of positive reinforcement to suit the ages of the students you teach. A little bit of praise will go a long long way.
Have a Plan to Prevent Your Rules From Coming Apart.
Writing about your teaching experiences helps you acquire objectivity and clarity especially on those difficult and unpredictable days. Five minutes is sometimes all you need!
Have practice and review sessions of the material you’ve taught. There are so many many ways in which to do this but choose those activities that speak to your teaching style. For example, you could have a game or mini-competition. Show a film to reinforce important themes or concepts followed by a worksheet. Use songs to review grammar structures and vocabulary. Have a textbook treasure hunt. The list is endless.
And remember, students will always continue to try and push the limits. That is just their nature. So make sure you understand your own rationale for what you are doing in the classroom.
You can teach with confidence and successfully when the going gets tough.
So work it!
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