September is upon us! If you haven't started school yet, it's sure to be right around the corner. Even though this is year 33+ for me, I always have a sense of excitement, some butterflies, and a feeling of gratitude for a field that shapes our country's future.
When those doors open, students will rush in to meet their friends, teachers, staff, and other adults who make their day meaningful. As I recollect over the many previous years, those beginning days and few weeks are filled with enthusiasm, an eagerness to learn, and I'd even go so far as to say, "a true joy of being back to school!" While I can't speak for every staff member, it seems as if those positive emotions drift away as the year progresses. We sometimes experience that initial natural enthusiasm wearing off slightly when things become hectic. Should we so readily accept a loss of excitement? Can our attitudes, habits, and planning minimize what usually seems like a yearly demise of motivation? I believe it is possible to think with a "now what" mentality. Even though every idea below won't guarantee success, it will at least get you thinking positively. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on building a "now what" attitude.
The easiest way to keep a certain level of motivation as the year progresses is to remember how it started. There isn't any scripted rule that states we have to lose energy and passion just because we are a few months into the year. Even when some stress might enter, try focusing on what worked initially. Those little habits like greeting students at the door, having a fun break mixed into a lesson, playing music, or just a random conversation with the class never get old. Staying consistent will impact your mood and how you react to setbacks.
I think about how many lesson plans I've used over the years. Whether paper or technology, the numbers are easily in the thousands. Those plans provide a certain comfort when the year starts. With that said, we all need some new ideas from time to time. While I'd never suggest changing something that's already effective, sometimes a slight tweak can make a difference. Even as this year started, I modified an opening day activity that fit the situation better now than when we were virtual. Again, as I mentioned above, I'm not suggesting you get away from what's worked. Instead, the addition of a few simple tricks can reenergize a class. I love trying a few movement games, adding new music, discussions that aren't content-related, or just a quick snack break. None of these are time-consuming, and students will appreciate the change in instructional approach. Again, this is a personal choice. Even talk to your colleagues to see what ideas they have used. You might learn some great ideas. Plus, sharing is a natural way to build a collegial culture.
Let's face it, those of us in education tend to be our harshest critics. We strive for excellence and want to make a profound difference in the lives of students and their families. While that's a noble cause, it can lead to "perfection fatigue" when things don't go perfectly. I know I've taken it to heart in my earlier years if every student didn't perform well or loved the class. Sure, I still hope that all students thrive. Yet, I realize that maybe other factors are contributing to a less-than-stellar experience for a child. My point is simple, do your best. We should avoid bashing ourselves when we've indeed tried to make an impact. Instead of thinking that you've done something wrong, take a moment and appreciate all the great things you do each day. Even when it may seem like just words, those affirmations will help boost your confidence.
The last idea is probably the simplest of all and, in my experience, the least used. Ask students for feedback. When I ask my class, "what's going well, what would you like to see different, and how can I make the class better?" students will usually stare at me and say nothing. That's because they have zero experience being asked those questions. We can and should change this. Think about when we've had professional development or learning. It's usually commonplace for schools to get feedback on our experience. Why would, or should it be any different for our students? You can do surveys, google forms, or even group discussions. Frequently, the results will prove that you are doing a great job.
I hope that your year is off to a great start. There are so many positive happening that occurs when students enter on the first day. Let's remember that we have the power to make each day just as unique as the first. It takes persistence, positivity, passion, and patience. You can do it! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, I'd love to hear about them. My contact information is below. Have a fantastic school year!
About the Author
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I’ve been a Health and Physical Education Teacher/Coach/Trainer for 30+ years. I enjoy all types of fitness, writing, speaking, and spending time with my family! Stay positive, stay happy, stay well!