New Teachers

Second Half Survival: 4 Tips to Get You from January to June

January 21, 2014
Photo credit: Thinkstock

We have entered the second half of the school year, and many of you are probably surprised that you've made it this far without killing someone. Those are very natural feelings, but you might not be able to last the rest of the school year if that's where your mind is at the moment. After ten years in the classroom, I've put together what I think are some excellent tips for making it through the second half of the school year in one piece -- and not in jail. See which of these strategies can make the next six months a piece of cake in your classroom.

1. Create "Me Time"

This may be one of the hardest things you can ask yourself to do. "Me Time" is not easy to find, but it is one of the most important things you can do during this second half of the school year. This time doesn't have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be every single day, but it needs to be your time. You can do almost whatever you want during this time -- as long as it is not school related. No checking papers, returning parent emails or lesson planning. Find something that's all about you, and do it. I love to play video games and make my "Me Time" about killing zombies. No matter how bad my day was, shooting a few zombies gets me in a great mood after an hour. In summer, I love to work on my pond or garden. These are things I can do when the world gets too loud, and they help me center. Find your "Me Time" activity and enjoy it.

2. Ask For Help

For some reason, asking for help is viewed as a sign of weakness or ineptitude. People are afraid to ask for help because they want everyone to believe that they're the best at their job all of the time. This is just a silly notion. Many newer teachers succumb to this idea, yet many veterans still hold onto it, too. In fact, asking for help is one of the smartest things you can do when your professional life gets crazy. If you have a mentor, go to him or her for help in dealing with a problem student or putting the finishing touches on a lesson. Asking for help is actually a sign of strength. Admitting that you cannot tackle something on your own is a brave thing to do. It shows that you have your priorities in order. It's not about your ego -- it's about solving a problem. Seek help when you need it, and January to June will pass in a blink of an eye.

3. Connect and Vent

Sometimes we keep frustrations and fears bottled up and then ruin an entire summer break trying to deal with them. Bottling up is the worst way to spend the next six months of the school year. It's important to have people in your teaching life that can understand the problems you're facing and can offer some insight. They can be mentors, administrators (unless they are the problem!) or other educators you've connected with on social media. These connections can offer a wonderful point of view that you hadn't considered when looking at your issue. Venting is nice because these feelings shouldn't be kept in. And it's worth a lot having a handful of people that can listen and give you a hug, even if it is a virtual one. The other side of the coin is making sure that you'll be there for others who need to vent as well. We're all in this together and need to be a shoulder for others who were there for us when we needed it. Connecting and venting add up to a great way for getting through winter in one piece.

4. Reflection

One of the best things I've ever done is reflect on my teaching on a regular basis. I make sure there's time in my day to take a look at what happened and what I can learn from it. These daily reflections prepare me for the next day, week and school year. My blog is a place where I can write about my ideas or frustrations. I need to get them out of my head so that I can see what I was actually thinking. You can choose to reflect in a personal journal or a blog. Wherever you decide to reflect, make sure you do it on a regular basis. If every day is too much, do it every other day or every Friday. Find the time to think about what you're doing and what you can learn from it. These reflections will pay off years down the road when you encounter similar situations -- you'll remember how not to handle things based on previous reflections. A reflection here and there will have you ready for the end of the school year with a smile instead of a grimace.

Are there any tips that you have about making it to the end of the school year in one piece? Share them in the comments sections below so that we can all be ready for beach towels and sun tan lotion this summer.

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