Marathon, Not a Sprint
The after-vacation-honeymoon has ended. The behaviors, attitude, and wackiness are all back! And this stretch from now until the end of the school year is loooong. Soooo loooong. Like the longest marathon ever. So how do we make it not quite so painful? Follow these tips to make the second semester fly by pain free!
1. Stick to the Routine.
Procedures are so important. So. Important. I always spent a ton of time in the fall teaching procedures and routines. After winter vacation, it’s like everything you taught fell out of their ears while sugar plums danced in their heads. You have to come back strong with routines and procedures, almost like you are starting over. It is just so important for overall success this semester that your students know there’s still a predictable way to do things. That predictability will give you flexibility later in the semester.
2. Stick to the Behavior Management
Honeymoon is over. Over. If you have not been spit on, pinched, kicked, yelled at, cursed out, or ducked as something flew across the room…. well you must be on an extended honeymoon. But, it will end. Consistency is key. That little written document that dictates your behavior management plan has to be used as consistently as possible. Let it guide you. And if it sucks, dig into what will work and stick with that. Either way, you have to follow a consistent plan.
I know you want to get creative. I know you have dozens of student with a million different needs. As the awesome teacher you are, you want to make changes to fit every student you work with and all their complex needs. I know you mean well, but sometimes all that work changing doesn’t improve things for the student. I was in a classroom this week with a 21 year old student who had been in a structured and self contained classroom for the last 15 years. This semester, his last, he was moved into the mainstream LIFE Skills classes with all the transitions and curriculum. The first day I was in his first class and the teacher had out ABC cards. The rest of the students were working on a writing prompt. I cringed. Why is he not working on a prompt as well? The teacher is trying to create a whole new curriculum for just him, but he needs what everyone else is getting. I grabbed some word flash cards and started he and I started “writing” sentences using flash cards. Was he 100% successful the first time out? No. Did he try? Yes. Was it appropriate? Yes. See the difference? Use what you have. Stop making all new things for everyone.
4. Stick to Your End of Day Time
Go home. Go. Home. See your spouse, your kids, and your family. Work out. Read a book. Get a mani-pedi and a massage. Stop lugging that huge bag back and forth. You have to take care of yourself in order to be the best teacher you can be. When you are at your best, your students will sense that and try to be at their best with you. When the plane is going down, they want you to put on your mask first and then assist others. You need that time for you and your family. The work will be there tomorrow. Now, don’t neglect things, but don’t neglect yourself.
5. Make the Students Work!
Hey… you’re working at 100% all day, every day. Look at your students. What is there time of engagement? Are they working at 100% like you? If not, start some collaborative learning, peer tutors and activities that make students use each other as resources, and use independent work to keep students constantly working and engaged. I know we have student with severe disabilities and sometimes it is hard to think of them as a good helper, but every kid can do something. I once had a student who could not read, write, hold a pencil, talk, or speak. She could get on her favorite website in less than a minute- logging on and everything. How in the heck? Everyone has a skill. Find one skill in every student and use it to your advantage. Besides, you know what they say about idle hands…
6. Keep Work at Work and Home at Home
You will need to see a Chiropractor everyday if you keep hauling that huge bag back and forth! You have to leave work at work and do home things at home. I know it is hard. Just do it. And, if you absolutely have to work at home, move some of your work to the cloud. Stop with all the paper hauling. Use Google Drive, One Note, or Dropbox to keep your files and free yourself from the poundage of your bag. A better you makes for a better experience for your students.
7. Say YES to Help!
I know no one on earth can cut as straight as you or laminate as perfectly as you. Maybe whenever you give your classroom helpers a copy job, it comes back all wonky. Other people never get things done how you want them. But… it is done. You cannot free yourself from all the work, get home at a decent time, and give good instruction if you control and do everything- and your students deserve that. Just saying, let it go (insert musical refrain here).
I know this seems like a very teacher centered list to help your students be successful, but we, as the educators, are the key in the classroom. If you want your second semester to be successful, you have to do things to facilitate that success. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint.