It’s a terrible feeling to come home from work and realize that you had an awful day. You’re tired, frustrated, and ready for the weekend. But before you can relax or even think about what went wrong today, it’s time to begin planning for tomorrow. You push yourself beyond exhaustion and then wonder why tomorrow is no better than today. If this sounds familiar, then the following tips are for you. Here are some tips on how to turn that terrible teaching day into a great one!
Accept that not everything is within your control
It’s okay if there was something you could have done differently – maybe you could have de-escalated a situation. Maybe you could have taught a topic in a different way. Don’t beat yourself up over it too much. Reflect on what happened and come up with a better strategy. One of my saddest days as a teacher was the day all of our textbooks were thrown out. It was tough, but I created a new curriculum which ended up saving my life during remote teaching.
There may also be situations that truly are out of your hands. Perhaps you need an IEP for a student, but there is a delay in getting one. Perhaps the heater in your building went out and all of the students (and yourself) were cold and irritable at school today. These are realities that impact our day-to-day teaching, as well as our students’ day-to-day learning. Give yourself and the students grace, and try to come up with quick fixes. This leads me to the next point.
Don’t let things outside of your control bother you
If the heat is not working properly – encourage all of your students to keep extra sweaters at school. I recently purchased these self-warming clothes to keep warm at work because I know that I become irritable when I’m cold. The reality is the heat at work is something I can’t fix. I can purchase what I need, however, to keep myself from becoming cold and irritable.
It’s important to remain patient with your students, but you also need to give yourself time to recoup when things are not going the way they should.
Have a plan to help students before they become frustrated
The best strategy I ever incorporated into my classroom was the calm down center. It is a place that any student can go to at any time during the day. I have crayons, coloring sheets, fidget toys, and other calming-down activities there. I also have a textured bathroom rug that students can lie down on and a dry erase board that students can write on. The only rule with the calm down center is that only one student can be in it at a time.
Now, when I see the frustration building in a student I encourage them to visit the calm down center. If a student is upset with a friend, I recommend they head to the calm down center. By the fourth week of school students come to me and ask if they can go to the calm down center. It is a place students know they can decompress. The calm down center is also a great break for students after a difficult math or reading activity. It can be a reward and a motivator for a lot of students.
After about 5 minutes in the calm down center, most students are ready to return to our activity. I do have a couple of special needs students who sometimes need 10 minutes there. The calm down center has truly been a game-changer in my classroom.
Have a plan for each day’s lessons
I know this part goes without saying, but sometimes as teachers, we become so caught up with bureaucratic things that we don’t take the time to plan out each day’s lessons. This is part of the reason I created my daily common core reading lessons. Each lesson is ready for me to present using Google Slides or PowerPoint. This keeps my lessons engaging and full of the information my students need to learn.
I like to have all of my lessons planned for the following week before I head home for the weekend. When my lessons are fully prepared in advance, I am better able to handle the “little things” that happen throughout the day. Remember that teaching is an incredibly rewarding job. Every student you inspire and every lesson that clicks for your students is worth all the frustrations of the day.
As a teacher, you will undoubtedly face frustrations throughout your week. Whether it’s a student who refuses to listen or the heating system that has been broken for two weeks. These are realities of teaching as well as obstacles in our way. The best thing we can do is give ourselves and our students grace when faced with difficulties like these. Remember that every student you inspire and lesson which clicks for them is worth all the frustrations of the day!
For more great tips check out this month’s Teacher Talk