Teachers use the end of the year as a time for reflection and evaluation. What worked well in my class this past year? What didn’t? What lessons need to be tweaked? What progress did my students make? These are all great questions to ask and play an important role in the growth process of educators; however, most educators fall short by failing to assess their personal capacity in order to determine patterns of personal behavior and these effects on teaching. Reflect on the year by asking these personal questions:
When did I feel the most stress? For example, many people feel stressed during December and May due to holiday parties and end of year celebrations. In the past, student research papers would typically be due in the two months because they mark the end of the semester. Now I realize that these are the worst possible months for papers that require extra time to grade. By scheduling papers to come in during November and April, I eliminate a lot of stress in my home and family life.
When did I feel the most tired during the year? I feel the most tired at the end of the first month of school and during the month of March every year. Seeing this as a pattern in my life, I am now more conscious to get extra rest during this time and not add extra activities to my calendar.
When does my family need me the most? What teachers do outside of school has an effect on what happens in the classroom. Identifying busy days and aligning classroom activities that require lower energy projects or planning ahead in order to alleviate prep work on the busy days outside of school keeps my energy up and attitude good during when I could easily be stressed.
What things brought energy to me personally this year? Seeing students grow in their writing and taking ownership of their learning gives me energy. The way that I most often observe this is through mini-conferences with students where we discuss their overall progress for the year and work through writing issues. Recognizing how much these mini-conferences fuel me is important because I can now plan these for times of the year when I am tired or feeling discouraged. Running also gives me energy, and while I am not a naturally talented athelete, spending time outdoors by myself after a long day at work gives me energy.
What things drained me this year? Hands down standardized testing drained me more than anything else this year. Next year I plan to offset some of the drain of standardized testing by enjoying a light read and going to a movie during testing season gives me something fun to look forward to.
What impact did the school year have on my health? For the first time in seven years, I gained weight this school year, and I account it to being too relaxed about eating healthy during the last couple of months of school. I am now more focused on making healthier choices when eating and avoiding late night eating in an attempt to feel better by the time school starts. Eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough rest can make a huge difference in our performance in the classroom.
While taxing days and busy seasons are sometimes unavoidable, recognizing patterns throughout the school year and responding to them can help make strides toward balance in our professional and personal lives. But for now, enjoy the lazy days of summer!