How to avoid hitting the end-of-semester wall: 10 tips
The new year has faded into just “the” year, marking and planning has taken its toll, there’s always something new to organize or plan, and burnout has started to rear its ugly head. The teaching “wall” can hit experienced and newbie teachers alike. However, there are techniques to keep on hand to avoid it. Here are 10 of our favorite.
1. Plan an attack
You may usually work through grading, report writing, or admin bit by bit each day. But if it’s piled up and you’re not sure you’ll ever be able to see over the top of the stack again, consider dedicating a single day to get through as much as you possibly can. Give it a funny name if it makes you feel better about the idea (maybe “the blitz” or “devil’s lockdown”—though of course, do go crazy with your own names!) and visualize how happy you’ll feel at the end of it.
2. Try something new
Hitting a teaching wall is sometimes linked to being in a teaching rut. Snap out of it by trying something new (here are a bunch of ways to start) and refueling your desire to learn by attending a professional development workshop or conference. Otherwise, mix it up by doing something fun in class. Have a picnic, or movie lesson, teach outside, or let students use their devices in class.
3. Keep a “little wins” list
It’s so hard to remember a mistake or missed opportunity. But what about the many, many things you do well? Try recording these with a sentence or two, or by saving emails you receive complimenting you on an aspect of your teaching. Then bring them out when you need a little boost. Your “little wins” can be kept in an actual list, as notes in a small box, as a label in your email account, or folder on your computer/cloud.
4. Eat well
Are you feeling more fatigued than is normal for you? Check-in with your diet to make sure you’re eating enough nutrients, especially iron which is essential for good health and stamina. Swap empty carbohydrates for wholegrain varieties and include plenty of healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts and seeds.
5. Sleep well
Are you giving your Netflix membership a workout? We understand—sometimes at the end of the day, all you want to do is loll in front of a screen. However, it’s all too easy to forsake sleep for screens. Try setting an alarm about an hour before you’d like to go to bed, and use the time to enter the sleep zone: putting on your PJs, drinking an herbal tea, brushing your teeth, reading quietly.
6. Exercise well
Move it, guys. Even just a little. A morning walk, afternoon bike ride, or 20 minutes of yoga will go a long way to helping you remember when teaching life was a little less heady. If you’re up for a challenge and don’t feel like the commitment will overwhelm you, sign up for a circuit workout, gym class, running group, or other group activity to keep you on track.
7. Use your free time
Determine what makes you feel more chilled and rejuvenated at the end. Playing an instrument, cooking, reading, taking a long bath, going for a stroll, playing with your pets, listening to a podcast, watching a movie, seeing friends, engaging in a hobby.
8. Lean into your colleagues
Work to cultivate good relationships with your colleagues. When times are tougher, they’re some of the people who will most understand the demands of teaching. Before the semester starts to hit crunch time, plan ahead by organizing a weekly afterschool coffee with a couple of teacher friends. It helps to pull together and have time to laugh and debrief throughout the crazy weeks!
9. Forget Sunday
Have you got into the habit of planning on Sunday nights? Nip that practice in the bud at once. Sunday planning effectively turns Sunday into a workday, meaning you’re half in the classroom throughout the day. Choose a weekday afternoon instead and give yourself a good block of time to plan, photocopy, and research in chunks. Studies have shown that our brains are far more efficient when we complete like tasks at once. If you lose track of what you’ve planned or need to do next, try a digital workflow tool such as Asana or Trello.
10. Have a mental health day
Sometimes you just know that you need a day off. When that happens, it’s time to burn one of your sick leave days, even if you’re not “sick”. Taking time off to realign your energy will only help your teaching and your students in the long run. The trick is not to let your mind guilt you into doing any school work on that day. Instead, your job is to relaaaaaaaaaax, whatever that means for you.