I want you to know that you are seen, and you are valued! As we are fully into the school year and are entering what some may call the October “Blues”, that doesn’t mean it has to be blue…it can be yellow 😊 (yellow is the color of the sun, smiley faces, and sunflowers. It's a happy, youthful color, full of hope and positivity). For us to shift the narrative of the month of October in the Education world, we first must recognize, identify, and try and understand why October can be (and has historically been) a challenging month:
- The optimism that comes from having a fresh start at Back-to-School has faded. Hopes ran high over the summer when we were fantasizing about the magic that is returning to in-person services and education. But reality set in now. October is the period of disillusionment: The beautiful supplies you ordered might be broken or lost or disorganized. The community and rapport-building exercises you planned got pushed back so many times due to lack of time that you’re not even sure if they’re worth implementing now, even if the students aren’t getting along the way you like. You’re at a place where you’re afraid to try something new and throw the kids off, but it’s becoming glaringly obvious that the way things are going now isn’t great.
- There are a lot of full workweeks between now and the winter break. There are several 3 and 4-day weeks at the beginning of the school year which help us ease into the Back-to-School routine, but by mid-October, we’ve got a grueling 5-day week schedule ahead of us until November break, and no other breaks after that until winter break. People who aren’t educators may think we’re whining if we complain about this, but what they don’t realize is that educators depend on those days off to catch up. A bunch of 5-day weeks in a row is good because we can really establish routines with students and get into a flow, but it also produces a tremendous amount of documentation and planning and assessment with too little time to handle any of it
- The end of the school year seems impossibly far away. In October, it starts to hit you that some obnoxious student behavior (which is currently driving you crazy five minutes into the school day) could be part of your everyday reality for eight more months. You start questioning your stamina: Can I really keep doing this until June? (YOU CAN 😊); I’m this tired and it’s only a few weeks into the school year. What have I gotten myself into? If that’s how you’re feeling right now, it’s normal. But normal doesn’t mean “let’s keep feeling this way.” And normal doesn’t mean required. You can change your perception of the situation, so it feels less stressful and overwhelming.
To help support in this change, I’d like to provide you with 3 strategies to help you beat the October Blues (taken from Angela Watson’s “How to Beat the October Blues and Re-gain your Enthusiasm for Teaching”):
1. Start by recognizing that you’re thinking way too far ahead.
You’re already anticipating the stress of things that won’t happen for many more weeks and trying to figure out how you’re going to have energy to do something that’s months away. That means you are creating your own stress by anticipating problems that haven’t actually happened yet. You’re worrying about how you THINK the year will unfold, instead of focusing on today. You don’t need the strength for 185 days of school right now. All you need is strength for today. And if even THAT feels overwhelming, break it down even further. You really only need strength for this very moment, right here in the present. Can you make it through the next ten seconds? Yes, you can. Then make it through the next ten seconds. When the panic starts to fade, take it ten minutes at a time. Can you make it through the next ten minutes? The next hour?
- Let go of that idealized version of educating or providing services that you dreamed about over the summer and embrace what is actually happening. Every Educator gets thrown a bunch of curve balls: we end up teaching something different, we get new students added to the caseload at the last minute, and we have changes sprung on us overnight. That is part of the course in education, so we can’t hold on too tightly to what we want our work to look like. Flexibility and resilience are not optional character traits for teachers: flexibility and resilience are crucial elements of our success. Embrace those little –and big– annoyances that cause you to learn how to be flexible and that give you the opportunity to practice resilience.
- Find an experienced colleague in your school/community who is just unshakeable: nothing seems to throw them off, because that person has seen everything and is done riding the emotional rollercoaster. When you start to get overwhelmed, go hang around that person. If there’s no one like that, find one online through Twitter chats, Facebook groups or educator blogs. Surround yourself with people who are determined to love education no matter what, and who will encourage you to keep going during tough times.
- Even though it sounds like a cliché, you MUST stay focused on the positive. Complaining and focusing on the negative will wear you down. So, use your interactions with other people in the field to talk about SOLUTIONS, rather than seeking out people to vent with you. You are not alone. And it’s going to get better in the months to come. The hardest weeks of the school year are behind you. Look at what you have accomplished already! Celebrate every little success, not only in your mind when you’re tempted to replay your endless to-do list, but also out loud with children. Don’t get distracted by the documentation and paperwork and meetings – handle your business, but always, always, keep your heart and mind focused on the kids. They’re the best part of this job, and it’s only going to get better with them from here on out.
With SO MUCH ❤️ and GRATUTUDE!