The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Kathleen Alape Carpenter
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Columnists & Writers: Alfie Kohn; Harry & Rosemary Wong; Cheryl Sigmon; Dr. Marvin Marshall; Barbara & Sue Gruber; Marjan Glavac; Dr. Rob Reilly; Barb S. HS/MI; Ron Victoria; Brian Hill; Leah Davies; Susan Rismiller; Hal Portner; Karen Hawkes; Emmy; Tim Newlin; Chuck Brickman; Barb Gilman; Grace Viduna Haskins
by Susan Rismiller
Regular contributor to the Gazette
February 1, 2008
As the blush of the celebrated New Year fades, it becomes clear: some teaching challenges will continue to plague us into 2008. We’re left to face the fact that our stellar planning goals may go unrealized, or our grand ideas for improved behavior management fall flat. When I talk to new teachers and interns, I liken us to those disheartened folks who recently devised and subsequently ignored January’s weight loss programs, new fitness routines, or plans for finally getting organized. We, too, can get caught up in a downward spiral of disillusionment.
At this time of year I often notice I’m more sensitive to perceived administrative slights and colleagues’ snubs. My temper is more easily tweaked, and I may have trouble sleeping. Worse, I might become more cynical, even apathetic. What was once exciting can become joyless. Let’s face it, we teachers, new and veteran alike, can fall victim to the dreaded February Slump.
I’m not talking about sustained depression here. Instead, I’m referring to the temporary dip in mood so often seen after the holidays have come and gone, and well-intended resolutions have been trampled. With winter weather dragging on, and spring break weeks away, it’s no wonder we need a boost of positivity to get us through!
A good first step: express gratitude for anything that is going right. In this frame of mine, I usually have to MAKE myself make a list. Perhaps it’s as small as appreciating my schedule. Surely I can identify at least one nice thing about my students. I like the new librarian. The soda machine now has caffeine free cola. And…my aggressive kid hasn’t hit me in weeks.
Once I get rolling, I begin to see more “good stuff”. My runner hasn’t run away in a while. Two usually reluctant parents returned my phone calls home. Did I mention the soda machine now has caffeine free cola?
It’s not that hard once you get started. Finding the positive aspects of the teaching day, especially when things feel desperate, helps me move past the doldrums.
The next step is to act “as if”. No doubt you’ve heard this before. When we behave “as if” something is true, we are often on our way to making it true. I’m not talking about pretending to the point that you lose a grip on reality. Instead, it’s optimism and “old school” civility I’m promoting. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the day’s events, I can act “as if” I’m a cool, calm, collected person. I act “as if” I can handle anything with aplomb! When I think everyone around me is a pain in the neck, I choose to act “as if” ours is a pleasant workplace. It usually works, at least for a little while. Moreover, it tends to amaze students and co-workers!
Another tactic my interns and I have tried: change up something in your day, just for the heck of it. If you are consistently an early bird, arrange to come in a little later one morning. Or come in early to enjoy an extra cup of coffee before the kids arrive.
Dress up. Dress down. Play music while the kids arrive to class. Vow to compliment as many students and colleagues as possible in one day. Smile for no reason at all. Changing the dynamic of the day is the goal.
I’ve asked temporarily defeated interns to write a letter of recommendation to themselves about themselves. I have them jot down all the wonderful things they’ve done for students and the school. This is not a time to be shy. Instead, it’s an opportunity to be one’s own best cheerleader. After all, everyone needs a little self-promotion now and again. The blues won’t likely survive when we see, in writing, how much has actually been accomplished.
The information at this WebMD link - http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-easing-stress - specifically targets stress and how to better manage it. If feelings of discouragement last for more than a few weeks and really start to get in the way of day-to-day activities, a visit to the doctor might be in order. Sometimes the blahs are a sign that bigger changes might be necessary: transfer to a new school, new grade level, or different career overall.
But if the February Slump is what’s got you down, consider the importance of purposely finding your “best self” and leaving behind the negativity. When we show up with a positive attitude, it’s easier to face the challenges of the day. But most of all, our general outlook and daily moods directly impact our students. Even in dreary February, they deserve the very best we have to offer.
Special educator Susan Rismiller has mentored 14 new and preservice teachers, some in conjunction with Fairfax County, Virginia’s Great Beginnings Teacher Induction Program, as well as George Mason University’s unique year long internship program.A1980 graduate of James Madison University, Susan completed her masters degree in 2001 through George Mason University’s Initiatives in Educational Transformation (IET), and was awarded its Program Award for outstanding achievement and academic excellence. Information about GMU’s IET program can be found at www.gmu.edu/departments/iet .