Search form

Springtime Slump: We Can Do It!

Around this time of year, teachers are particularly prone to burnout, more so than in May or June. When Presidents’ Day hits in the frigid darkness of February, teachers are looking at about a six-week stretch of school until spring break, which doesn’t sound too horrible until we think about some of the other factors. For starters, testing often takes over in the spring months, and that alone adds pressure to the already fast-paced world of instruction. With up-and-down weather patterns, viruses tend to run rampant, and now that we face this year’s addition of Covid-19 worries, anxiety is at a premium. Finally, people can be pretty tired, either from spring allergies or from just needing that break to come. How can teachers stay the course and keep morale up in the face of some pretty significant challenges to mindset and energy?

Don’t Stress the Test

In the spring, the accountability beast is particularly visible. What is more worrisome than the thought that our students might fail the tests we have been so carefully preparing them to take? Assuming that curriculum standards are implemented skillfully in the classroom, we might not have to worry as much as we do. I remember a colleague really stressing out about AP exam results, and I asked her whether she had done her absolute all to prepare students. Her answer? “Of course, but if only we had more time.” Here is a bit of a truth bomb where testing is concerned: teachers will never feel like they have enough time to prepare kids for assessments. That is just a natural condition of the work, since students experience progress (not necessarily linear) over an extended period. The real question is, have we made the best use of the time we have? If we are strategic with preparing students from the very start of our planning and setting measurable outcomes so that we can back-map progress, then the pressure of feeling okay about test readiness might ease up a bit. True, it is not as easy to let go of stress if student success is an evaluation measure for teachers; however, for our own peace of mind, we need to know when we’ve done work that results in student growth in a variety of ways.

Keep Calm, Eat Well, and Hydrate

I was on the phone with my doctor the other day as he shared some blood work results with me. “Try to stay away from germs,” he said. I laughed and told him that my job was to visit large numbers of schools all day long. The doctor laughed with me. “Oh, well then, never mind.” Humor aside, educators live with the constant influx of illnesses that make their way through school buildings, and this time of year is particularly rough. With Covid-19 in the mix, the usual wariness with germs has become full-fledged anxiety about staying safe. During this time, the best we can do is prioritize health. Teachers often skip nutritious meals because they’re helping kids at lunchtime, or neglect to drink water because they cannot leave students alone to use the bathroom. Each day, find ways to get nutrients, to hydrate, and to step out for some fresh air or a short walk if possible. Warding off Covid-19 is not something we can control too much, but keeping ourselves strong by prioritizing wellness is important. 

Keep Positive Energy Up

The other day, I trained a group of clearly exhausted teachers, and I left feeling discouraged with how things went. As I reflected on all of the areas that could have been better about the session, I paused and started to ease up on myself. Not every day will be our best day, and not every class will be ideal. The important thing is to focus on success and try to maximize positive indicators of engagement for the future. For instance, if a class is reading a story out loud and kids are unfocused, that does not mean the entire lesson is flawed. Think about all the different ways students can access the story, such as reading in pairs or picking a piece of the story to represent through a drawing or skit. We often jump to assume that students dislike something because of their initial reactions, and we consider the lesson a failure. Instead, think about small tweaks that won’t result in the same burnout as a total lesson overhaul. This time of year, making those small changes will be much kinder to our stamina and to our sense of self-worth as teachers.

When the school year begins, we’re full of energy. The same holds true toward the end of the year, when summer breezes return and a long break is in sight. In the spring, having the stamina and optimism to pull through can be a challenge. During this time, being kind to ourselves and our students, staying healthy, and doing our best without being too self-critical can make that stretch to spring break a lot easier. Springtime can be tougher than advertised; take a deep breath, and remember that it will all be okay. We can do it!

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam is a Learning and Achievement Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has worked for nearly 20 years as an English teacher, staff developer and department chair. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, and recently earned her certification in Education Administration and Supervision. She can be followed on Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

Copyright© 2020 Education World