We’ve put the start of 2018 behind us, and if you’re like many people, some of those resolutions have either started to stick or begun to taper off. It’s finally the time of year when you have established some solid routines, and have some uninterrupted time to buckle down with students. Don’t forget about the most important part of the job of teaching – you! There are several things you can do this time of year to appreciate yourself and take stock moving forward to set up your success.
Learning should be fun. Highlight some moments for yourself or students when joy has been experienced in the classroom. It’s time to ensure that students are engaged while they are learning. What quick practices could you incorporate into your classroom or building to capitalize on joyful moments?1
Cook a meal, read a good book (for pleasure), take a walk or just enjoy a cup of coffee with no interruptions. Teachers are masters of multi-tasking and loading up every moment. Find a few things a week that make you happy and commit to taking that time for yourself. There is research on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.2 Add this into your daily practices.
Connecting with others, whether it be students, colleagues or friends can help broaden your circle and strengthen your support network. Think about the variety of relationships that you are cultivating and how you can continue to diversify relationships. Do you have varied age groups represented? Are there different common interests that you share with friends? Are there people with whom you could reconnect? These relationships feed the soul while also pushing you to grow personally and professionally.
Remember those professional goals you likely shared with your administrator in the beginning of the year? Pull those out again. Celebrate your success and make concrete plans to complete steps towards your goals. Add new goals or action steps for those items that you now realize are a priority for your teaching or learning.
Come spring time, the testing pressure can feel overwhelming. Excessive test prep for students is not beneficial, nor is it fun to teach. “It just wastes a lot of precious time. Instead, teach learning and test-taking skills as an integral part of every lesson (not as a separate subject)…”3. Take the time now to refresh your familiarity with the test format and expectations for students. How can these be woven into your instruction in a meaningful and relevant way to improve student learning?
Peer or Self Observation
Teaching can be a lonely profession, but only if you allow it. Now is the time to make sure that you are in other classrooms to see what colleagues are doing. If relationships are strong in your building, you can likely pop in to a neighbor’s room just to see what they’re up to. It may also help to reach out to a colleague that you know is implementing a strategy you’d like to see. If watching someone else seems like too much pressure, tape yourself giving a lesson and take the time to watch it, noticing what you’re proud of and what you’d like to work on moving forward.
We teach because we care and because we want to make a difference. Taking care of yourself as the vessel for change-making is an essential step to positively impacting kids. Refreshing yourself and reflecting as you step into the throws of 2018 creates personal and professional growth.
Graciously written by, Meg Parkhurst
Meg Parkhurst, M.Ed Educational Leadership, has taught at the elementary level in Maine for 15 years in 2nd-6th grade. In her current role as instructional strategist at two elementary schools in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, she coordinates academic interventions for grades K-5 and coaches teachers to enhance instructional impact in the classroom. She is deeply interested in professional learning communities in their various forms and measuring increases in student achievement/teacher effectiveness.
- Walker, Timothy D. “Don’t Forget Joy.” Teach like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
- Reynolds, Gretchen. “How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2016, well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/contemplation-therapy/.
- Fisher, Douglas, et al. Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12: Implementing the Practices That Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning. Corwin/A SAGE Company, 2016.