Congratulations on surviving another semester of pandemic schooling, which could be considered enough stress for an entire school-year itself. You’re now savoring the last of your winter break and some hard-earned R&R. But the mornings are dark; it’s cold and snowy (or wet) outside. Chances are, you’re not itching to get back to early morning zoom classes!
Motivation at the peak of winter takes a hit every year. But this year, the pandemic and remote education have delivered an extra heavy hit.
Here are some tips to fire up your and your students’ motivation to get through these last winter months with renewed energy and focus.
1. Start and end the day with joy – Bookending your day with little pleasures – anything that brings a smile – can help your mindset for the whole day. This could be as simple as using a beautiful, high-quality planner, sipping your morning coffee from a favorite mug, or setting photos of family and friends in view. Or it could be taking a daily walk to connect with nature, keeping a gratitude journal, or any other little ritual that brings joy.
2. Know that you’ve got this – Take a moment and look back at how you met and rose to the challenge of 2020. Taking time to acknowledge your achievements and resiliency can help you find the motivation to forge ahead into 2021. Having confidence in yourself will help fortify you when overwhelm creeps up from time to time.
3. Practice self-care – We all know the drill about airplane masks: Take care of yourself first, or else you won’t be able to help others. List out the things that replenish and energize you, and then take steps to prioritize those in your week. Maybe it’s reading, hiking, or connecting with friends. Tending to your own health and well-being will have a spillover effect of being a better teacher.
4. Communicate with your administrators – Your administrators are there to support you, so ask for assistance when you need it. Use clear communications to let them know about challenges or workload issues – and remember that just like at every other school in the nation, pandemic-era education is a work in progress. Patience and open communications are some of the best tools for thriving amid the challenges.
5. Remember why you’re doing this – At the end of the day, it’s about the kids. When overwhelm and stress threaten to overtake you, try to reconnect with the reason you became a teacher in the first place. Acknowledge it’s not easy and everyone’s doing the best they can. Compassion – for yourself and your students – goes a long way.
6. Pace yourself – Sometimes, having the finish line in sight helps with the final push. Put up a calendar and mark the days until spring break. You’re only a couple of months away – you can do it!
Helping Your Students
7. Share your experience – By acknowledging with your students that everyone’s been having a hard time, it gives them permission to feel their feelings. By sharing any struggles you yourself have had, they’re likely to feel less alone, ashamed, or self-critical.
8. Be optimistic – Optimism is contagious. The more positivity and optimism you bring to the classroom, the greater the chance it’ll rub off on your students. It may well help buoy them and ignite their natural resilience. Remind them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – spring break is around the corner!
9. Encourage kids to designate a cheerleader or two – If kids surround themselves with people who encourage and support them, they’ll get through this year with a lighter mental load. Encourage them to find a few people in their life whom they can check in with on their successes and struggles. Support and community are more important than ever right now.
10. Make this crazy time a learning experience – No matter their age, kids will take away life lessons from this pandemic year. By framing this year as a challenge that you all tackled and surmounted together, they’ll gain lessons on resilience, community, and collaboration that will serve them for years to come.
11. Celebrate successes – Celebrating students’ successes – whether those are individual or collective – will be extra meaningful this year. Recognizing their hard work and achievements will help them feel seen and acknowledged. Successes can be academic, behavioral, or something you see in their personal growth.
12. Make it fun – Find simple ways to give your students a lift as they return from winter break. This might mean sending welcome-back messages or scheduling something fun for them to look forward to, such as a competition or creative group project. Infusing passion and creativity into their lessons and subject matter will go a long way towards engagement.
Finding motivation (this year especially) to get through the rest of winter might take every ounce of energy you’ve got – but in the end, you may just end up being surprised by your own strength and resilience.
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