November blues

At exactly this time on the calendar in my first year teaching, I hit a low point in my professional life and lost my composure in front of my students. The episode ended with my punching a hole in the blackboard. It was bad.

Seven years later, I have infinitely more experience, confidence, and technical teaching skill than did the 2003 version of me. My lows aren’t as low anymore. I can now maintain a consistent baseline of expectations in the classroom. Nobody is going bananas anymore. And still I’ve got the November blues this week.

The changing weather and the diminishing daylight don’t help. Any trace of the back-to-school burst is utterly gone. The fruits of significant learning progress aren’t yet revealing themselves. Sometimes, towards the end of the day, I get this sandy feeling in my eyes, like dumbbells are attached to my eyelids, dragging them down.

I need an energy shot. And I’m not alone. Teachers I talk to are feeling the gears slow down, the momentum wane. We’re eyeing weekends with ferocity. What can we tell ourselves?

Each school year is a long term project. There are no shortcuts to satisfaction and growth. These are the vital months ahead, when classrooms can splinter into weariness and disorder, or push through to become havens of intellectual stimulation.

The weeks to come will be among the roughest of the year. One tactic I’m using: putting more and more responsibility for leading class segments into my students’ hands. It gives them ownership and accountability, and takes some of the load off of me. They love to be the teacher. Participation from non-leaders in the gallery goes up too.

Throughout the colder months, I’ll be posting some tips, ideas, and reflections on the long haul in the classroom. I also recommend (especially new teachers) checking out Roxanna Elden’s See Me After Class, a great resource for dealing with teacher stress.

Now it’s back to that stack of essays to grade.

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