Here we are, smack dab in the middle of winter, where time moves at a snail’s pace and it seems like spring break will never get here. Typically, it is dark (or getting dark) on your way home and it’s cold—bitterly cold. So cold that you've probably needed to have several indoor recess days as well. I often wonder how early I can crawl into my pajamas without it being weird. I would never think of putting on pajamas at 5:00 p.m. during the summer, but it actually seems like a wonderful idea in the middle of winter.
So, how do we get through these bleak days of winter? Here are few ideas, both professionally and personally:
Get Outside: I know, I know—I just told you how cold it is! But a blast of cold air can do the body good. Breathing in fresh air gives your body some natural oxygen, as opposed to all those germs floating around in your classroom. Plus, if you chance upon a sunny day, your body will benefit from the vitamin D. Take a walk after work, or better yet, put on your parka and take your class outside! It will boost everyone’s mood and your students will benefit from some exercise.
Friends: Get together with friends. You may not want to step foot out in this cold weather, so invite some friends over. Being with friends helps boost your happiness and reduces stress. It’s like free therapy! I am all for alone time as well, but it’s important to strike a balance. Try to schedule at least one activity with friends each weekend—it will definitely perk you up during these long winter months!
Plan a Trip: This is my number one favorite thing to do during the winter. I love looking online for my next destination, booking reservations, and planning adventures! The actual act of planning a vacation reduces stress and improves your overall mental state, not to mention the benefits once you actually take the vacation. National Plan a Vacation Day was on January 31, so get to it!
Declutter: Of course, winter is a great time of year to purge. It leaves you feeling organized and more focused. We teachers tend to be pack rats because we just don’t know when an exciting project might present itself and we want to have those supplies on hand. This year, I have decided to purge some of those supplies, bring them into the classroom, and let my students decide what projects to create. I am imagining a perfect STEAM lesson! Students will get to design, create, and build using a variety of materials I have accumulated over the years for that “what if” moment. This will allow students to take some ownership in the design process and have fun at the same time. It’s a win-win.
Positive Phone Calls/Emails: Typically, this is the time of year when those challenging students have deeply crawled under your skin and planted themselves there. Toss in those cold, long, bleak winter days and it’s just enough to send some of us over the edge. Now might be a good time to counter those feelings with a little positivity. First, start with those amazing students who have made so much progress you could just cry. Let their parents know—send a quick email, post a photo on Twitter, or give them a call. It will make everyone feel warm inside, which in turn will make those wonderful students want to work even harder! Then brace yourself, dig deep for those challenging students, and find something positive you can say to their parents. Chances are, those students have made a lot more progress than you think, and by sharing that news, you will get better results from those students as well as their families.
Countdown Calendar: This may sound silly, but in our staff lounge, one of my amazing coworkers has put up a calendar and adds an X at the completion of each day. Each day when I walk in, I get to see how close I am to a Friday and how close that Friday is to the end of the month. That simple act of crossing off a day brings me peace of mind. I am way too OCD to do it on my own calendar, but having one up in the lounge is a helpful way to get me through the day. It also helps me focus on the day at hand and gives me a quick reminder of what I need to get done before that X shows up!
Try Something New: It is so easy to fall into a daily routine both at school and at home, but winter is the perfect time to make a change. Find a new exercise class to try, learn to knit, or create a new classroom project. Heck, you could even drive a different route home. Change and novelty actually improves your brain’s health, increasing memory and your overall learning capacity. Better yet, try something new both personally as well as professionally—both you and your students will benefit.
Fear not, dear teacher friend—we are in this together. Fortunately, winter doesn’t last forever. Warm, sunny spring days are ahead. Really, I promise they are. In the meantime, try these tips and soldier on. You’ve got this!
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