6 Months To Go: A Teacher’s Guide for Winning the 2nd Half of the School Year
It’s January, which means there are six months of classes, lesson planning, meetings, and assessments left. As hardworking educators, we can easily start wishing away the rest of the year to get to summer. But honestly, by maintaining a healthy and clear perspective, there’s no reason that this year couldn’t be your best teaching year yet. Here, you’ll find some simple advice for building and sustaining a positive outlook from now until June. We can do this!
Reflect and renew
January is the perfect time for reflection and some fresh goal-setting, so ride that New Year’s wave and get seriously introspective. It’s easy to put self-reflection on the back burner because face it, there’s always something more urgent to do. But the impact of reflection and contemplation can be transformative. So, set aside even just five minutes this January. Genuinely think about how the first half of the school year went. Write down your thoughts in a journal or type them up. The point is to get them out and preserved. It will be really illuminating in June to look back on your mindset from January.
Mid-year reflection activity
Think back to September through December, and consider the following:
- What successes did you have?
- What struggles did you face?
- What would you like to improve going forward?
- What habits can you adjust?
- What current habits have value?
- What student or staff relationships need attention?
- How can you shake things up and how will that improve your teaching practice or life?
Chunk your time
The January to June run is the lengthy chunk of the teaching year, and when teachers feel exhausted mid-year, it can be overwhelming to glance at the school calendar ahead. One way to tame the tension is to break the rest of the year into more reasonable segments. First, choose your calendar option. Use an awesome planner, print out a free calendar, or use a calendar app. Next, look at your school’s calendar and add the holidays and breaks to yours. Then, add in your school’s marking periods and important events. And finally, chunk your school year into more manageable portions. For example, teachers return to work after the holiday break in January and teach until February break. That’s a much less intimidating parcel of time to visualize and focus on than looking six months ahead. Break up your time by school vacations, marking periods or whatever system helps you manage your schedule and planning best. This mental maneuver alleviates anticipatory stress and helps prioritize your tasks as the year progresses.
Don’t go it alone
It truly takes a village to teach, and turning to our work friends and colleagues is an absolute must for surviving and thriving during the school year. Some days, we just need some help. We need to vent. We need to share that funny story, talk out a classroom interaction, or get some advice on a lesson plan. Maybe we even need a shoulder to cry on. Teachers can get pretty isolated, and many still believe that asking for help equals incompetence. But we need each other. Ideas are made better through collaboration. When teachers share their expertise, students benefit. Schools are full of amazing, talented, intelligent, and compassionate educators—and we’re in it together. So, get social. Share ideas in both your own school and the larger education community. Join a Facebook group or seek counsel on Twitter using hashtags like #edchat or #teacherlife. And just remember, you’re not alone.
Make a teacher mission statement
It’s a new year and a great time to revisit why you’ve chosen the life of a teacher by creating your own teacher mission statement. Using the questions below, craft just one paragraph about your mission as an educator. Then, using the calendar you made above, schedule some times throughout the year to look back at this mission. Or, look it over each morning before classes file in. Live by it. When we take the time to clarify our values, we can more sincerely honor them. Knowing who you are as an educator can help make the next six months extraordinarily authentic and meaningful.
- Why do you teach?
- Why sets you apart as a teacher?
- What are your teacher values?
- What do you believe as a teacher?
- What is your goal as an educator?
Remember, you’re doing important work
In the day-to-day grind, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the work educators do is truly profound. Each day, we get buried in the infinite responsibilities of our job that it’s nearly impossible to see the gravity of what we do. Zoom out. Remember, that each young person in front of you is someone. And that someone is going to grow up and become an adult with an impact upon our world. Every interaction, each nugget of information we pass along, each teachable moment molds and shapes them into the person they will become. When it feels like frantically treading water to stay afloat, remember that in the eyes of your students, you have it all together. You’re their compass and each day you show up as a model of consistency, compassion, possibility, and wisdom. Few others can walk away from their work with such an impact.
As we go into these next six months, perspective may be difficult to preserve. Take time for self-care, think about what you need, and reflect on what you do and who you are as an educator—which is nothing short of amazing. Teach on.
Jennifer L.M. Gunn spent 10 years in newspaper and magazine publishing before moving to public education. She is a curriculum designer, teaching coach, and high school educator in New York City. She is also co-founder of the annual EDxEDNYC Education Conference for teacher-led innovation, and regularly presents at conferences on the topics of adolescent literacy, leadership, and education innovation.