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How Teachers Can Stay Motivated and Overcome the Mid-Semester Slump

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

For teachers, as the school year pushes on and students’ start-of-the-term best behavior wears away as the curriculum ramps up, you may experience days where it is hard to stay motivated and do your best work. Don’t worry—it happens to everyone. When you hit these mid-semester doldrums, the trick is to find ways to motivate yourself rather than needing something exciting or positive to happen in order to reenergize. Here’s four ideas to get started.

Dig through the past

When a particular class starts causing you stress, you may start fondly remembering classes from last year or even longer ago. The irony is that, at the time, those classes were probably causing you very similar stress. However, that’s not really the point. It can be very helpful to find motivation in your past work, and the successes you (and your students!) previously achieved.

Many teachers choose to keep some student work from previous years. This is a good practice in general, since such work can serve as valuable examples for later classes, but it can also remind you of student success that you had a hand in facilitating. If you don’t have any students’ past projects, reports, or presentations tucked away, even just a look through a previous success story’s grades and data or classroom snapshots can remind you how much you affect students’ lives.

Try something new

Sometimes it’s hard to own up to, but boredom can be the root cause of many motivation issues, and if you’ve been relying on many of the same lessons, units, and instructional strategies for a long time, this might be the situation you find yourself in. If so, keep in mind that teaching is about discovery—and you won’t find any new favorite lessons or effective approaches unless you try. Comb through Pinterest, find a new teacher blog, or ask a colleague about their favorite lesson for some inspiration. If it doesn’t work, you won’t be invested enough in the lesson to have it break your heart. But if it does, you’ll likely feel your fire for teaching instantly rekindled.

Observe a colleague’s class

Getting to work closely with students on a daily basis is one of the most special things about teaching—but it can also easily make teachers begin to feel like they’re on an island. Feeling isolated from your peers in your own classroom can easily cause motivation to suffer. Not only are you bound to get lonely, but you also never get to see any of the new, exciting things that other people may be doing, or share your own clever ideas.

When you’re feeling disconnected, try taking a planning period and observe someone else’s class (with their permission, of course). In general, this works best if it’s not your best friend’s class, not in your grade/subject area, and not with students you currently know. After all, getting outside of your comfort zone is the best way to truly expand your horizons. You don’t even have to be looking for anything specific. Just go in with a notebook and an open mind—and be sure to take a couple minutes to casually chat with the other teacher.

Mentor a new teacher

Mentoring is just as much about moral support as learning the ropes of the craft. New teachers need to know that they will survive the wild, crazy, and occasionally overwhelming times of the first year. What isn’t always recognized though, is that the new teacher can be just as helpful in providing support and motivation for their mentor. New teachers bring fresh energy, new ideas, and none of the jaded perspective that comes with years of experience. Veteran teachers should never be afraid of trying to learn a thing or two from their mentees. If your school doesn’t have an established mentor program or it’s too late to sign up, simply spend some time with new teachers in the lounge, during the lunch hour, or at faculty meetings.

Looking for more ideas to connect with colleagues and stay motivated in the classroom all year long? Check out this blog for tips to start your own Professional Learning Community!