Stay Balanced as the School Year Intensifies
A MiddleWeb Blog
It’s the time of year when our teaching responsibilities are mounted high. We may find ourselves feeling stretched thin by the hectic pace of things we must do and things we should do. If we’re lucky we get to do some things we want to do.
But it isn’t easy. We continue with our regular routines of lesson planning, co-planning (if we’re lucky!), faculty meetings, parent communications, professional development opportunities. IEP’s must be reviewed and new IEP’s must be written. We can add the testing season, which far too often brings unnecessary stress.
And of course there’s our actual “in the moment” teaching and learning time with our students. We take care to be there for our students who come to our classrooms with their own emotional and academic strengths and needs.
Oh, and right, we also have a personal life outside of all of this that is both exciting and at times exhausting. We are very busy! And it’s time to take a deep breath.
You may be reluctant to even take that breath, but trust me – this is a high priority task. You need to recalibrate your focus on your instructional practices, routines, materials, professional mindset and personal time.
A Meaningful Instructional-Learning Process
- Zoom in on your instructional decisions
In our high-stakes, data-driven world, it is crucial to keep your attention zoomed in closely on what you can control. We may feel forced to keep up with our state or district pacing guides, standards, or expectations. But we can control what happens inside of our classrooms.
We have important instructional decisions to make in terms of HOW we teach. It is also up to us to decide the kind of connections we will have with our students. We must remember that a positive, risk-free learning environment begins with creating a comfortable setting. It is up to us to guide students to connect to their relationship to learning.
- Stay focused on your students:
Keep the instructional personalized and meaningful, so that any test will be a natural product rather than the key focus. We all know that when the test is the focus, the instruction may morph into a contrived, product driven nightmare. Keep it real. Focus on the process. Keep your connections alive and well with your students—they learn to be learners (not mere temporary memorizers!) from you.
- Keep the instructional process flowing
Remember it is all about the process. All grades, all subjects, all classrooms. No exceptions. Our instructional decisions should create a process of learning that engages all learners in the room. Here are some great links to revive your differentiation instruction needs.
► These six differentiated instruction strategies are effective for new and veteran co-teachers to stay in the co-teaching groove.
► Here’s a piece from Edutopia that will also get some juices flowing and provide some ways to differentiate through technology—some great ideas are just one click away!
► Text sets are another effective way to differentiate as we strive to deepen and expand our students’ reading skills and experiences.
► And if you’re interested in creating cross curricular text sets for middle grades, here’s a tremendously helpful link.
As we put so much of our energies into doing what is right for students, we must remember that we need to take care of ourselves. A little pampering can go a long way! You know what I mean—when we feel rejuvenated within ourselves—we can do so much more for our students. So take care of YOU!
A Few Tips to Stay Balanced
- Choose ONE – Think of ONE
We all know what happens. We get busy…we think of others…and we put our needs off to the side for some future, mythical free moment. But we know that doesn’t always happen. So do not wait! Choose one exercise, one park to visit, one time for meditation, one article to read, one friend to visit, one SOMETHING that you do simply because you want to do it for you. It will feel great! And then think about another something that you will choose to do within the next week or so. This could get you in the groove for balancing your daily habits of mind.
- Take Daily Deep Breaths
It is so important to stay in the present moment. When we are in the present moments we are able to meaningfully connect with our colleagues, students, and ourselves. But too often we catch ourselves literally holding our breath. Breathe! It is such a relaxing way to reconnect to the present.
Try this: Here’s a quick anywhere kind of breathing technique to zap any stress out of any moment. And if you feel like watching a video about staying in the present moment—check this Huffington Post clip. And here’s a bonus link for 10 Mindfulness tips to stay in the present.
The world is always happening in the present. That’s where we want to be!
Let’s get a conversation going—what does this post leave you connecting to and thinking about?