Spring is here and teachers are counting down the days until summer vacation. You have devoted yourself to your students for the past eight months and exhaustion is your daily companion.
With the finish line in sight, you struggle to find the motivation to end the year on a positive note. You may even be satisfied with reaching the end without enduring a nervous breakdown--and if you think that sounds dramatic, then you've never worked with children on a day-to-day basis.
Teachers' stress levels peak this time of year. You are constantly battling to keep students engaged and focused on learning (oh yeah, students look forward to summer vacation too). You also have a classroom to pack up, final grades to submit, and a marathon of unnecessary paperwork and meetings ahead of you.
The pressures of standardized exams add even more weight onto teachers shoulders. The anxiety that comes with exam scores dictating your effectiveness as an educator is enough to keep any teacher up at night.
It's no surprise that many teachers stumble (or even crawl) their way to the finish line.
With distractors and stressors abound, it’s easy to lose focus. With that in mind, it is possible to finish the school year in a healthy and balanced state. To achieve this goal, be sure to avoid these five common mistakes that teachers so often make this time of year:
1.) You Sprint to the Finish Line
People often respond to stressful situations with stressful behavior. Many teachers see the final weeks of the school year as a final opportunity to make a difference in students' lives. You dangle the idea of a restful summer vacation in front of you and convince yourself to go into overdrive, often neglecting the activities (exercise, nutrition, meditation, etc.) that kept you sane throughout the school year.
While your heart may be in the right place, this approach will leave you burnt out and unbalanced. Sprinting to the finish line may be tempting, but keep your focus on consistency and prioritizing your own well being, because happy students have happy teachers.
2.) You Make Assumptions
Nobody knows your students better than you do--not even their parents.
That's because you have spent the past eight months working with them every day. You know their strengths. You know their weaknesses. You know their behaviors.
You also know that they can surprise you.
Teachers often get caught up in labeling students based on past performances and forget that they are a perpetual work in progress. For example, it's easy to assume that a student who has coasted all year long will continue to coast for the final stretch. But every teacher has had a student who flipped the script on an assumption and left them pleasantly surprised.
With these outliers in mind, teachers owe their students the benefit of the doubt, because great teachers never give up on students.
3.) You Only Play The Hits
Teachers often choose to finish the year on autopilot. You stick to the same old activities and lesson templates that you’ve used all year. And while this approach is usually serviceable and safe, it is also a missed opportunity.
The final months of the school year are an awesome time for teachers to experiment with new lessons, activities, and technology. Effective teachers have a short-list of ideas that they would love to try, but are apprehensive to attempt during the school year (often in fear of wasting valuable time or energy).
By experimenting, you can evaluate and tweak a lesson before you add it to your teaching arsenal. Not taking advantage of this time is one of the biggest mistakes a teacher can make.
Want some fresh teaching ideas? You can access fun and experimental teaching activities for all grade levels here.
4.) You Compare Yourself to Colleagues
When you base your self-worth on a comparison with someone else, you will always lose, because self esteem does not exist on a hierarchy.
Teachers often fail to learn this lesson (or they become so distracted that they lose sight of what is important).
Do not allow yourself to be defined by test scores or performance reports. If you can honestly say that you gave your students your genuine best effort, then you had a successful school year.
While it wise to be reflective towards the end of the school year, it is also important to be easy on yourself. Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate all of the positives, while identifying the negatives as opportunities for improvement.
You crushed it this school year. And you will crush it even harder next year, because you are a great teacher and that's what great teachers do.
5.) You Justify Your Vacation to Non-Teachers
It won’t be long until you are enjoying your well-deserved summer vacation. Everywhere you go you'll rock that well-rested glow and stress-free attitude.
The haters won’t like that and will surely make that overplayed “must be nice!” comment.
But if you feel the urge to justify your vacation, don’t. You put in the effort and endured the emotional toll that only a teacher can understand. You’ve made a difference in hundreds, if not thousands, of young lives. You are a rock star and you deserve every second of your time off.
by Anthony Persico
Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for MashUp Math. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel. Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.