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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Forgive the pun in the title of this post, but I couldn't help myself. The temperatures are starting to rise, and teachers need to shake off the winter weariness to make it through to the end of the school year. I've got some great tips on how you can inject some much-needed energy into your teaching and end each day with a smile on your face.

1. Go Exploring

One of things I've found to be exciting is visiting other classrooms. Teachers are often so buried under paperwork and our own lessons that it's easy to think we're alone in the building as we go about our day-to-day business. Taking time once every few weeks to get into another teacher's classroom and see how he or she does things can be amazing for you. We're all surrounded by wonderful educators that have something to share, and we just need to make time to see what that is and be willing to learn from it. I always take away something after visiting another classroom. It might be something big like how to handle disruptive students, or it might be something small like how I call on students who want to participate. These little explorations are a great way to learn something new and breathe new life into a classroom that might have gone a bit stale during the winter months.

2. Open Your Doors

Going exploring works both ways. If you visit other classrooms, make sure you extend an offer for others to visit your classroom. The great part of having colleagues drop in is that they will provide a very interesting point of view on how things went during that period. It's important to make time for talking with your guests later in the day for feedback. What did they see that you might have missed? These conversations can shed some light on how your entire classroom runs, or make you aware of a small part of your class that could use a tweak. At a minimum, a visitor might confirm some of the things you think are working, and that shot of positive feedback can get you through early spring showers to see beautiful April flowers.

3. Ask the Students

Asking for feedback from students is one of the scariest things a teacher can do. At least, that's what most of us think. However, it's one the most beneficial things a teacher can do when trying to get feedback on lessons, assessments and overall classroom management. I've always learned valuable things from my students when I ask them what they think. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I've found the most direct way to be the best.

The second part of asking the students is implementing some of their suggestions. One year, my students told me they were feeling very run down after a long week of state testing, other exams and homework for their classes, and the conclusion of a long unit in my class. They just wanted something fun, so we did something fun. We took a day off to have a party, watch some silly YouTube videos and just relax. It was a simple thing to do, but it made the rest of the year much better for the students and for me. Students will always tell their teachers what they need, but teachers should remember to ask once in a while.

4. Be Social

Another puntastic title for you, but there's a reason -- hit up social media for new ideas to liven up the classroom. There are many great educators tweeting on Twitter and posting blogs, teachers doing some amazing things and freely sharing them with the world. Not a year goes by when I haven't "borrowed" a fabulous idea found on social media and integrated it into my classroom in one way or another. My 20 Time Project is one of many different things I've found through social media that has changed the way I teach. I'm always on the lookout for something fun to add to my class when the school year starts to drag. Lip Dubs are great if you have a day where you want the kids to be silly in class and shake off some rust after a long winter. The best part of grabbing these ideas from social media is sharing with your network how you've used them in your own class. It keeps the cycle of sharing going, and that's what makes social media such a valuable tool for educators.

The winter blues won't vanish on their own, so it's important for educators to find ways of adding the spark back into their classroom that will keep the students -- and themselves -- going during this last stretch before the end of the year. I would love to hear of the different ways you add a spring to your step in the classroom. Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.

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Marcia James-McKenzie's picture

Thank you for this post. Your ideas are excellent and refreshing like spring itself. Even though I have done some of these activities that you have suggested they were unplanned and the visits were more casual. I do know some of the valuable benefits you can relish from visiting a colleague's classroom or maybe I can inspire anyone who comes to mine. Of course the suggestion about asking the students about the lesson evaluation and how they feel are wonderful especially the little social with them. Students love to see the human side of their teachers. I will do these intentionally now that you have mentioned them. I have already shared this with other colleagues if you don't mind. I am beginning to welcome spring into my classroom so that my students can bloom.

Laura Ritter's picture

Your post caught my eye because I most definitely have the winter blues! There is a silly picture going around the internet that my principal printed out and put on my desk today of two owls. One is all nicely dressed and labeled "teachers at the beginning of the year" and the other looks all frazzled and it's clothes are torn and it's labeled "teachers at the end of the year." I laughed and hung it on my filing cabinet. One of my students saw it and asked which owl I was. I just laughed because I'm definitely feeling frazzled and exhausted!

I like your idea about going exploring. I work in a small 3 teacher school but I've been inspired to look into peeking into other local schools perhaps. I also LOVE looking at classroom pictures on pinterest. There is so much inspiration out there!

It's so true what you said about keeping the spark in your classroom! Teachers and kids alike can burn out by the end o the year if you don't!

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