Teaching is tough, but so are you. Surely, you have seen this floating around the internet. It’s true, but by October I always find myself questioning the statement. Maybe I am not as tough as I thought I was. The truth of the matter is that October is like the boyfriend your parents didn’t like because it has all the wrong things going for it: long month, Halloween, no breaks, the end of a grading period, and a black cloud of tiredness. Today, I want to provide some encouragement for Surviving the October Slump.
6 Tips for Surviving the October Slump
1. Take a day off
I’m not advocating playing hookie, but I am confident that by October you need a day to rest. The busyness and long hours of the first few weeks of school have hit and you are likely tired, a bit irritable, and feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself a bit of grace and realize that you need to take a day to relax, not think about school, and do something for yourself. This might mean leaving the papers or lesson planning at school for the weekend or getting a substitute to go to that long overdue dentist appointment.
2. Throw something away
If October doesn’t kill you, it’s likely that you might suffocate from the stacks of papers in your classroom. You are probably long overdue for a good clean out. I always struggled with the papers, whether that be the class activity, the homework, or the unit tests we were supposed to keep. Until I had solid systems for grading homework and students keeping track of their own papers, I felt like I was shuffling papers from the “I need to take this home to grade” to the “Shoot, I didn’t grade them” to the “Grades are due, must grade ASAP” pile. Choose something and recycle it. Remove it from your room, and free yourself of the condemnation that you feel every time you see it sitting there. Life will go on, I promise.
3. Plan your grading strategically
Learn from my mistakes: Plan your grading strategically. October typically brings about the close of the first grading period. For any new teacher, let me share my horror story.
My first year, I was a paperwork mess, not to mention failing my students at providing accurate feedback and other #teacherfails that we won’t name. I had stacks of papers that either were graded but not in the grade book or needed to be graded. I foolishly assigned homework and then took it home and graded it, until midnight sometimes. As the first grading period was coming to a close, I attempted to get in missing work/absent work all while keeping up with the current grading. Needless to say, I was at school until 10:30 PM trying to get in all of the grades and close out my gradebook. It was a hot mess! I left in tears, distraught that I had to come back the next day.
I failed to plan my grading strategically.
A few grading tips:
- Avoid having a test the week grades are due – this leads to missing grades from students who are absent and not enough time to follow up with students who did not meet standard
- Provide accountability for assignments that are missing as the grading period goes on, rather than the week they are due
- You don’t have to grade everything
- Don’t grade everything
4. Go with the flow on Halloween
If Halloween is on a school day, it is going to be a long day. You might as well embrace the chaos and just roll with it. Learning can still happen, but save the new concepts for another day. Use it to play a review game or work in groups on previous content. I know that lots of students love coloring, so I created a quick solve and color to keep kids on task but also still providing structure and a more relaxed environment. If you are really brave, embrace the season and find ways to incorporate seasonal things in your classroom in a calm and structured way.
5. Make Positive Phone Calls
By now you have identified those students who are going to be the thorn in your side, and it’s easy to focus on them. But have you taken the time to celebrate those students who are meeting and exceeding expectations? Maybe the quiet ones that tend to blend in. Take five minutes to call home and let their parents know just how much you value their child and the contribution he/she makes to the class. Parents love to hear good things about their kiddos. Plus, you will hang up feeling encouraged.
6. Stick to your classroom management guns
Students are testing you, they feel more comfortable, and some might have outright lost their minds. Even though you are tired, take time to reevaluate your classroom management and make necessary adjustments. That might mean you need to crack down on the chatter or reset any expectations that aren’t being met. Take the time to address the expectations with your students, and then be consistent. Your December self will thank you.