It's that time of the year again and teachers worldwide are starting to stress and I'm reduced to using my well worn saying 'Don't make me raise my voice again!' message to the students in my class.
- Christmas is coming (this means Christmas classroom crafts, candy, present giving and all the craziness that goes with the festive season).
- Report cards are due (you've been slaving away to get those assessments marked and editing and proofing comments till your eyes are sore).
- There are a million school performances to rehearse for/let alone attend (and if you're a parent/teacher that usually means at home as well!)
and if that wasn't enough...for those teachers in the Southern Hemisphere...it's the end of the school year as well!
How will you cope with all that stress?
Here are my suggestions for coping with the silly season no matter where you teach in the world.
Rule One: Do school work AT school.
This one comes with the tag line 'as much as is humanly possible' because let's be realistic, if you bring school work home it's most likely just going to sit there nagging you from your school bag until you carry it back into school again.
Rather than taking school work for a little vacation to your home and back again put in the extra effort to get that school work done at school.
- Arrive 1 hour earlier to get that marking done.
- Stay 1 hour later to finish that one difficult report card comment.
- Work through lunch (yes, horrible I know but necessary if you want to get things done) and plan the next days maths lesson.
I have teacher friends who mark sneakily through staff meetings (I see you over there when you think nobody is looking!) - it doesn't matter how you do it but the key message is DO IT AT WORK. That way if you still need to bring marking home, at least you will feel you have accomplished some of your tasks. This brings me nicely along to rule two...
Rule Two: DON'T make lists.
Alright so this is a touchy subject - you're either a list maker or you're not. Personally, I could go either way; I make shopping lists but I don't make work lists. To me, there is a huge difference between a wish list and a to-do list; one is a 'maybe' the other is a 'must do'. If you make lists and stick to them 100% then skip to rule three (don't look so smug about it either!), however, most teachers make lists of tasks to be done in the classroom and often shove a few 'wishes' in there as well and frankly they never get done. I constantly read on Facebook groups 'I have so many things to do on my list!' and 'I'll never get it done, my list is never ending!'. Do yourself a favour and tear up that list now! Instead do things as they come up as often as possible (and at school - see rule one).
- Quickly send those emails off to people early in the morning (remember that 1 hour you arrived early to do stuff at school in - yep so do stuff then and stop gazing out the window!)
- The minute somebody says '... so if you could just email so and so about it.. ' literally walk to your computer and say 'okay hold that thought - I just need to do this now so I don't forget' and send that email quickly while they are standing there. They will either a) wait and be impressed by your immediate responsiveness and organisational ability or b) get fed up waiting to load you with more tasks and walk away - either way win, win!
- a student walks up to you in the morning as class starts with 5 requests from their parents (that form they didn't get, that homework was missing a page, that money they lost at break yesterday... ) deal with each issue immediately (here is the form, here is the homework page/get it from 'insert name of super organised student in the class', your money will turn up see the office later... ).
Deal with those issues as they arise and quickly or you'll just end up starting to make the dreaded LIST which in turn = stress!
Rule Three: Busy work.
Give yourself some breathing time in the classroom to get those assignments marked, those report card comments done or just to get your head together and ready for the next lesson. We all know what busy work is.. it's the frowned upon naughty time-fillers we get students to do so we can do other more pressing tasks.
However, busy work doesn't have to be colouring or crafts. Spend a bit of time planning out student centred activities to free yourself up a bit. Obviously, this all hinges on which grade you teach; Year 1 students aren't going to keep themselves busy on a task long without going off the rails compared to Year 6 students (although sometimes there is little difference!). However, that isn't really the point of busy work. What you're looking for is TIME to sort things out or catch up. This could be 20 minutes with Year 1's or 45 minutes with Year 6's it doesn't matter - grab whatever time you can! Some busy work suggestions might be:
- Early years students: design a maths worksheet for another student (English/Maths) or create a colouring page for a friend and test it with them (Art/Maths spacial awareness).
- Middle years students: design and create your own cereal box (Health/Maths/English/Science) and vote on the best one in the class.
- Upper years students: design and create an information brochure on a topic of your choice using high modality and persuasive text and images (English/Art).
Notice how the suggestions above don't require much more than paper and pencils? There is no point giving students busy work that involves cutting, gluing and glitter as this will only make busy work FOR YOU!
That's it. Three simple rules to follow to start to lift some stress from your shoulders at the busiest time of the year.
Now you've been told what to do... of with you now and don't make me tell you again!
p.s. if you're looking for some easy busy work activities that are curriculum centred take a look at the products below from Teachers Pay Teachers.