"I'm overwhelmed.", one teacher said. "Just trying to make it to winter break.", said another. "Living the dream!", sarcastically one remarked. "I seem to be in a funk.", a colleague shared. All answers I have received in the last few days as I've met with teachers and leaders across our district and asked how they are doing.
It is the first week of December and you can feel it all around you. Unfortunately it is not that holiday buzz. It is a hard time of year. Our first big snow has blanketed the ground here in Omaha, NE. Temperatures have dipped below freezing and stayed there for several days with no predicted end in sight. Everyone seems drained from teachers, support staff, administration, and district offices. Students are on edge. It is this time of year, I always find myself searching for the graphic below, from the article, "Section 1: Phases of a First Year Teacher". It really identifies the cyclical phase that many in education go through, not just first year teachers. Notice in December we are in the deepest and darkest phase of disillusionment.
The Disillusionment PHase
We start the new school year off energized with new ideas, excited to try our best and reach all students, or implement new plans in schools and across the district. Once we are in the thick of it during those first few months we keep our energy going, but at this time of year we start reflecting on what we have accomplished and start to feel an internal feeling of disappointment. Why haven't we made it further with a student? Further in the pacing guides? Further with our goals? With our implementation plans? We get the sense of the hamster wheel effect of running and running and going and going... never catching up and that overwhelmed feeling hits.
The Rejuvenation PHase
Good news! It gets better. The article explains:
"The rejuvenation phase is characterized by a slow rise in the new teacher’s attitude toward teaching. It generally begins in January. Having a winter break makes a tremendous difference for new teachers. It allows them to resume a more normal lifestyle, with plenty of rest, food, exercise, and time for family and friends."
I know we are all counting down for the restful and much needed winter break that will start pushing us up the hill to rejuvenation, but there are plenty of hard days ahead.
How do we push ourselves through this low time? It is critical that our students still get the best teacher possible each day. It is key that in my role supporting teachers that I show up ready to listen and provide ideas and strategies. The answer of how to get through is different for everyone. Maybe just being aware that this is very typical and it will get better is helpful. I see some teachers I work with trying something new in these couple of weeks before break. A new activity, strategy, technology, that will keep students engaged and add to the excitement. I personally love to use this time to meet with teachers that want to learn something right before break so they can implement it in their classroom as students return.
I'm currently reading the book, "Atomic Habits", by James Clear and it is perfect timing. I usually analyze my habits for the New Year as I plan resolutions, but this is helping jump start it a bit earlier. This book is reminding me to look at intentional implementation of habits and giving simple strategies of where to add in small behaviors through my day to lead to more effective habits. It is making me focus on basic routines I have in my life that keep me sane like waking early to work out. It has pushed me to look at my sleep habits and create small behaviors that I can purposefully put in action to improve on my bad habit of staying up too late. In just the past three days of focusing on getting to bed earlier, my energy, productivity, eating habits, and exercise have improved. Focusing on this I hope will keep me energized through this time and push me to the new year. Writing this post is part of making me feel better. It has bothered me that I have not written a blog post since September. It has added into my disillusionment phase.
Whatever it takes for yourself, find small actions that will help you feel rejuvenated and just do it. If you aren't up for a change or a new idea, then go with another favorite of mine, "fake it till you make it". Throw a smile on your face and make it through your day without letting those around you know that you may not be at your best. Also keep in mind those around you. Keep an eye out for your students and fellow colleagues. Take time to stop and genuinely ask how they are doing and listen. When frustrated with the behaviors of a child or an adult, before reacting take time to empathize with them and see it from their view or realize that they may be in this low phase too. Your smile, listening, or a kind gesture can go a long way this time of year.
Mother, wife, teacher, learner, information seeker, outdoor lover, & I guess now a novice blogger.