Teachers deal with many challenges throughout the year. The top five, which you can read about in a previous post, are having too many masters, budget constraints, time, student needs, and teacher burn-out. And on any given day, these challenges can come at us all at once! I wish I could wave my magical pointer and make these challenges disappear. We teachers may be superheroes, but we unfortunately do not have superpowers—another challenge to add to the list. What I can do is offer some suggestions to help make these challenges a little less challenging:
- Take Control: With so many people to answer to, we can easily get stuck when dealing with such things as funding, resources, and student issues. First and foremost, it is imperative to become informed, so be sure to get out and vote! If we want our country to move forward, we have to invest in our future by electing officials who care and will help get the funding education desperately needs. As for unsupportive parents and administrators, it’s important to build relationships. I am not saying you need suck up, just simply care—about your students, your parents, the curriculum, and wanting to make your school a better place. Focus on the positive and be direct, yet kind, when you need to be. If you truly care and you show it, parents and administrators will know you are genuine and be more likely to give you the support you seek.
- Making the Budget Work for You: This is always a bit depressing to think about since we never seem to have enough in the budget, yet there is always something we need to buy for the classroom. I may be stating the obvious, but check out craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores. Be sure to tell people you are a teacher—there are many discounts that come with being one. Try to share costs with teammates by ordering in bulk, which can often be cheaper. Make a budget and stick with it. Ask yourself, “Do I really need it?” You may be tired of the bulletin board set you’ve had for years, but remember that while it may not be new to you, it will be new to your students.
- Time Management: There is never enough time in the day to finish everything you need to do. So, time management is key. The best way to manage your time is to get organized—start by making a list and prioritizing what really needs to be done. For those pesky projects like cleaning off your desk or creating 26 homework bags, stay focused on the task at hand. It is easy for “teacher ADD” to kick in when you walk past another project looming in your storage closet, but save some projects to take home and complete those “school only” projects first. As far as time is concerned with the curriculum, create long-term goals and plan with your teammates to share the load. Seeing the big picture helps with the day-to-day planning. There are several apps that can help with your weekly plans, such as Nearpod and Planboard. Sometimes you do need to pause for those “teachable moments.” Other times, there may be some lessons you can combine to teach the standards. Look at your curriculum and try to combine topics to make better connections for your students. This can help save on time, too!
- Meeting Your Students’ Needs: This is why we are here. The best way to satisfy all of our students’ needs is to differentiate instruction, which is easier said than done! First, you need to give some type of student assessment. I have an ongoing assessment for students letting me know where my students are now and where they need to be by the end of the year. Next, you have to establish classroom management and train your students to be able to work independently. I find that teaching shorter lessons to the whole group and working with small groups is the best way to go. I teach the whole group basic curriculum objectives, then students have their own workbags with appropriately leveled work for them to complete while I work with the small groups. I also have a time of day where I meet with my students individually while the rest of the class are reading, doing tablet work, or some other type of activity. Those who have behavioral problems can sit near you until they earn the right to work independently. Also, teaming up with your coworkers to offer differentiated instruction can be extremely beneficial for your students.
- Taking Care of Yourself: This is real, people. Even the most satisfied teachers experience burn-out. Teaching is a draining and exhausting profession, so it’s important to take care of yourself. After the mad rush of August, set limitations for yourself, such as only staying late two days a week and/or only bringing things home two nights a week. Find some form of exercise you enjoy—yoga, running, Zumba, surfing, etc.—and do it at least twice a week. Exercise releases endorphins, making you feel happier. Or find some type of hobby—like reading, writing, coin collecting, or knitting—and do that at least twice a week. Having a hobby has many physical benefits, such as lower blood pressure and even a lower body mass. Get together with friends who will make you laugh, try to eat right, and be grateful. Take about ten minutes each day to fill your mind with positive, grateful thoughts and you will feel happier. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it!
We have to make a conscious effort with all of these challenges. It’s pretty easy to sit back and complain—believe me, I certainly have my moments! But don’t let these challenges consume you, or you will surely be miserable. There is one thing that is certain in education: change is constant. So, grab your surfboard and ride the wave. Take care of yourself, get organized, and put your best foot forward each day. And know that you are making a difference.
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