The Energy Change
Look around your classroom. It’s not as bright and shiny as it was the first week of school, is it? Things might be falling off the wall. That bulletin board border that you so carefully put up in August is now bent and ripped in the corner. The lamination on your posters and centers are covered in fingerprints, and the once pointy pencils are chewed, broken, and lost.
Your lesson plans may be shorter than they were in October. You’ve copy/pasted some things from last week, scribbled notes to yourself on the side, and that color-coding system you thought of implementing last summer is now something that you laugh about as you think, “Did I really expect to keep up with that?”
Let’s all be honest. The last few months of school are TOUGH. You feel exhausted. You are stressed. You feel overworked, and I’m going to guess at times, underappreciated.
Don’t get me wrong. You still LOVE to teach. You LOVE being with your students every day. You LOVE getting to make a difference in the lives of these students and families. You LOVE being blessed with an opportunity to fulfill a calling that you are truly passionate about.
BUT. But if we’re being real with ourselves, there’s an energy shift that happens to teachers from August to April. Whether that energy changes from excitement to survival, or from anticipation to exasperation, one thing is certain: Our students deserve the very best of us. They deserve the same motivated, excited, eager, and enthusiastic teacher that they had in September that they have now, in April and May. So, what can we do to get that back?
Plugging In Your Teacher Battery
If you’re like many teachers, your “teacher energy” as I like to call it- the energy that keeps you moving and fuels your students and those around you- is a little weaker than it was at the start of the year. Guess what? YOU’RE NORMAL. Yep. I said it. It’s NORMAL to feel this way. It doesn’t make you a bad teacher. It doesn’t mean that you love teaching any less than you did five months ago. It just means that it’s time to plug that teacher battery back in and figure out how to recharge it. That is exactly what this blog post is all about! Let’s talk about some SIMPLE things you can do to motivate you, inspire you, and revive the energy you have for your students, classroom, and teaching.
Recharge Your Mind: Open a Book
Trust me when I tell you that investing in yourself as an educator is perhaps THE most powerful and impactful way to motivate and ignite your passion for teaching. It can be so tough to find the time during the school year to read a professional resource book, but it is one of the best things you can do for your teacher mind and heart. You’re a teacher because you love to see the lightbulb go off in your students’ minds. You love when your students are able to tackle a problem in a new, out-of-the-box way. It makes your heart swell when you see your children trying something new and taking big risks in their learning and critical thinking. Well, guess what? If we, as teachers, do not take it upon ourselves to try something new, take a risk, or broaden our own understanding of how students learn, we rob ourselves of experiencing those “lightbulb moments” alongside our students.
Since you are knee-deep in teaching responsibilities during the school year, don’t overwhelm yourself by feeling the need to read an entire book in one week. Reading just one chapter a week can truly ignite excitement for the classroom and instruction because learning something new about a topic you are already passionate about is naturally motivating! It’s an easy way to re-charge your teacher battery because professional resource books challenge us to be better, do better, and think differently.
A well-read educator is more likely to have a positive attitude about his or her profession and daily impact than a teacher who does not push himself or herself to learn beyond what the school or district provides.
Now, I COULD give you a list of books that are specifically targeted toward motivation, but that’s not what I’m suggesting in this blog post. I believe strongly that by diving into new content, new research, and new strategies, you will motivate yourself and re-ignite your excitement for instruction. I want you to find a book that will help you teach a subject, topic, or area that you are interested in. It’s no different than when you want your students to choose a book they are interested in. If you read something assigned, your heart won’t be in it. If you read something that you genuinely WANT to learn more about, that excitement for teaching will shine!
So, I’m going to share five books that I am currently diving into at this point in time, in case you’re interested in knowing what I’m reading right now. The following titles are Amazon affiliate links. This just means my blog receives a small compensation if you purchase using these links, but don’t worry- there is absolutely no extra cost to you!
- Structured Literacy Interventions by Louise Spear-Swerling
- The Reading Comprehension Blueprint
by Nancy Hennessy
- Shifting the Balance: Six Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom
by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates
- Know Better, Do Better: Teaching the Foundations So Every Child Can Read
by Meredith and David Liben
- Proust and the Squid
by Maryanne Wolf
If you’re looking for other professional resource book recommendations, you may also be interested in a blog post I wrote called the 6 Books that Shaped How I Teach Reading Comprehension. I also share additional book recommendations in my post titled, How to Avoid These 5 Mistakes During the Summer Break. In that blog post, I share what I read last summer for my own personal professional development goals.
Refresh Your Classroom: Change Your Space
Changing your classroom arrangement or moving things around in one area of your room is such an EASY and FREE way to recharge your teacher battery toward the end of the year! It can instantly lift and positively change the moods of both you and your students! If you haven’t moved your students’ desks or tables around in a while, I GUARANTEE they are ready for a change in where they are sitting and who they are sitting by. Remember how excited you were to plan out your classroom arrangement in the fall? Moving things around can give you a fresh perspective for the remaining months of the school year. If you use flexible seating in your classroom, simply making some little tweaks and changes to your whole group area or furniture placement can be the small thing you needed to get a fresh point of view and “revive” your classroom atmosphere. Try making a change to one or more of the following areas:
- Student desks or tables
- Whole group area
- Small group area
- Teacher area
Did you know I have TONS of pictures of my previous classrooms right here on this blog? You can check out some classroom pictures here and more classroom decor here. You can also follow my Classroom Decor Pinterest Board to get ideas, too!
Re-energize Your Students: Try Something New
When I’m feeling a little “blah” about my daily routine, and my energy levels start to go down, I know it’s time to try something NEW! I think that a perfect time for trying a new routine or daily change in the classroom is towards the end of the year because we can test it out and see if the change is something we want to implement into our school day the following year. At this point in the year, your students have a solid understanding of your expectations, they feel safe to take risks in their learning, and they are ready and eager for anything you throw at them. YOU also have increased confidence at this point in the school year, compared to how you felt in September. It’s a great time to test out something out-of-the-box that you may not have thought about trying five months ago. Adding a new element to your routine will also rejuvenate your passion, your energy, and your excitement for your day-to-day adventures. Let’s talk about some new things you can try:
- Morning Work Routine – Have you thought about switching up your morning work routine? I did this mid-year a few years ago, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I moved to a routine called See, Think, Wonder, Write. This activity reaches ALL levels of my learners, sparks their critical thinking, and encouraged conversation and writing during our first fifteen minutes of the day. It also integrates social studies and science! You can read all about it in a blog post I wrote called Is Your Morning Work Making Kids Think?
- Vocabulary Routine – How have you explicitly and directly taught vocabulary words this year? If vocabulary instruction is something you know you need to improve upon and focus on, my Vocabulary Curriculum packs lay it all out for you. The lessons are written out for you and the entire set-up makes vocabulary instruction easy and engaging for you and your students! In just 15 to 20 minutes a day, my flexible vocabulary routine will immerse your students in Tier 2 vocabulary words, multiple meanings, reading passages, context clues, writing, comprehension, and discussion. (Basically, if you’re looking for a new way to up the rigor and FUN for your students when it comes to vocabulary instruction you have to check them out!) I have a complete vocabulary curriculum for the ENTIRE school year, but you can also just grab an individual pack if you want to test it out this year and see if it’s something that you want to kick off next year with right away. You can click below to check out the complete bundle, and in the product description, you’ll find links to the individual packs, too.
- Try Something Digital – How do you END your school day? What do your students do right before they go to lunch? What about right when they get back from lunch? If you’re looking for something PAPERLESS and QUICK to try out and add to your school day, you could try to incorporate some fun brain exercises into your day! Brain-teasers are great ways to add energy to your classroom because the discussions that they spark from your students are a refreshing change of pace and a great way to get them to think outside of the box and see problems from different angles! You can find a lot of free brain-teasers and quick brain exercises on the internet with a simple Google search. If you’re looking for something that is kid-friendly and specifically designed for students in kindergarten through second grade, check out my Daily Dendrite Challenges! It is a digital resource that has a brain exercise for every day of the month! This would be something really engaging and QUICK to add to your classroom at this point in the school year. You can try out the May challenge for the end of the year, or grab the entire discounted BUNDLE to use it throughout your entire school year!
No matter what it is that you try out between now and summer break, I think you’ll find that switching up what you do for even a tiny part of your routine during the day will result in a positive change in energy, attitude, and engagement for both you and your students!
Inspire Your Heart: Take Time to Connect
I know you’re thinking that the LAST thing you have time for is talking about teaching in your free time. However, I am here to tell you that sometimes that is THE BEST thing that you can do for your teacher soul. Carving out time in your schedule to simply talk and chat about education and teaching can truly rejuvenate you and remind you of why you do what you do. Let’s be clear, though. What I am NOT suggesting is that you get together with your teaching buddies and recreate the atmosphere of most teacher-lounges. When you meet with your teaching besties, make an honest effort not to complain or bring negativity into the conversation. Chat about what you’re trying out, a recent project that your students did, a struggle you may be having in order to hear new ideas and perspectives from your friend, or even some new technology programs or apps that you’ve tried out in your room. Below is one of my favorite quotes about education, and it so perfectly sums up why taking time to connect with passionate educators is so important:
The most valuable resource all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives. – Robert John Meehan
So if you are feeling drained, tired, stressed, or just need to be “lifted up” in your teaching world, put the kids to bed and tell your spouse that you are meeting a colleague for coffee. Arrange to meet a friend for an early Saturday or Sunday breakfast. Carve out some time to grab a quick bite after school. However and whenever you find the time, I know your teacher mind and heart will be thankful for the time you took to connect and recharge.
Remember Your Purpose: Celebrate Student Success
As we head toward the end of the year, it’s easy for us to think about all of the things we still need to teach our students. It’s easy for us to wrap our brains around all of the things that they haven’t learned yet, can’t do yet, or haven’t made progress in. We spend hours and hours of time analyzing data and planning intervention groups. We are in the thick of meetings for students who need extra help. All of that is needed, but it can take a toll on our teacher battery as the year winds down. An easy way to recharge your teacher battery is to carve out a specific time to celebrate student success and progress. While we all do this on a daily basis anyway, do it in a different way than you have before, with the entire class. Seeing all of the amazing things that are happening in the classroom is the perfect way to pump up the positive energy in your room. Here are a few really easy, simple, and yet impactful ways to celebrate success with your students:
- Create a class anchor chart. Have each student think of something they have improved in this year. It can be within school or outside of school. Allow every student to add their celebration to the anchor chart.
- Make a list of all of the fun and memorable moments you’ve had as a class this year. This is a great way to build classroom community and reflect on all of the joy you and your students have experienced together so far.
- Give each student a piece of paper. Have students draw or write things they love about their classroom on the paper. They can choose to share these with the class if they would like.
Recognize Your Impact
I hope these five simple tips help you feel refreshed and re-energized as these last couple months of the school year are upon us. Whether you try out one of these ideas or all of them, know that what you are doing each and every day for your students is important, valued, admired, and appreciated. Sometimes toward the end of the year, we just need to be reminded of the remarkable impact and positive difference that we are making in the lives of our students and profession. If you need some encouragement in recognizing this, know that I am cheering you on every step of the way! Keep doing what is right for kids. Keep listening to your heart. Keep growing in your journey. Keep LOVING what you do and be proud of the impact you are making! If you need additional encouragement, inspiration, and ideas, I’d love for you to join me on Instagram if you haven’t already. You can find me at instagram.com/missdecarbo or on Facebook at facebook.com/missdecarbo You can also join my e-mail list so that you never miss a post, announcement, or exclusive freebie. If you are looking for a great follow-up blog post to read before you head to summer break, you can grab a free reflection sheet for the end of the year in my post, 5 Mistakes to Avoid During Summer Break.
Feel free to use the image below to pin this post for future reference, or to pin it to your Pinterest boards and share with your colleagues. Until next time, Happy Learning! -Christina