Webinar – March 2022
Spring is here and March Madness doesn’t just mean basketball! Midterm burnout can happen to the best of us. Join us for tips on keeping your students (and yourself) going strong until summer. We discuss creative ideas for end of the year planning, how to bring more fun into the classroom, and ways to take care of yourself and make teaching more manageable.
Read the transcript below:
Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for our March edition of Teacher’s Corner. We are very excited that you’ve joined us today. I have our resident teachers on staff, we’ve got Angel and Agustina, and today they’re going to be talking about how to avoid that midterm burnout. Both for you, as teachers, and also for your students, helping to get through this last quarter that things can pop up and it can get a little crazy.
So hopefully what you get from today’s webinar will help you soar through to the end with success. So for today, we’re going to be talking about some of the things that pop up in the end of the year:
- The prep that gets you through the end of the year, plus going into planning for the future.
- Ideas on how to have fun in the classroom.
- Taking care of yourself and encouraging your students to do the same.
So Agustina, I’ll go ahead and turn it over to you.
Planning for the Future
My biggest thing as a teacher at the end of the year was planning for the future- that always helped me keep my head on straight. I liked planning for the end of the year. I would plan every single week up until the end of the year. We all know you have to turn in your teacher’s plans and everything, but I always had a super short snippet of what I would do each week. I would cut it off by weeks, do my weekly objective for whatever that class was. You can put your actual class if you teach multiple classes. I would do the weekly objective and then put a super short snippet of the activity that would be done with my students every single day, so that you could see it all. And when you actually go to plan your length of your lessons, you’re not then sitting and thinking what you’re going to do, you already have some sort of plan. And if it changes, you just change it. That’s okay.
I also liked planning for the next year. So now that you’re super fresh on what went right this year, what went wrong this year, what could go better, and you’re not thinking about it in August or September of remembering something that happened last August and September. I always liked planning ahead, so I would ask myself:
- Which lessons did I love teaching the most that I could expand on?
- Which lessons did my students love learning the most?
- What projects did they absolutely love?
- What projects would I like to do that we didn’t really have time for or the set of students I had just wouldn’t have enjoyed that project as much as future students could have?
And then definitely thinking about which lessons just fell flat and then how I can change those for the future, which lessons I just did not look forward to and how I can come up with better resources so that I enjoy teaching it. Because if your students can tell you enjoy teaching it, they’re going to enjoy learning it more. So just thinking about anything that could change or how the things that you’ve done in the past could just be improved on.
Breaking Up the Norm
Another thing I really liked to do is breaking up the norm with my students. So there’s a very fine balance between keeping that same routine so that students don’t just think it’s summertime and they go insane and just having a little bit more fun. Because you know your students by now so you know what your students can handle, whether you can joke around with your students, what the expectations in your classroom are so they don’t push the limits as far as they would if they had just met you in August and September. So those games that you didn’t trust them to do in August and September, you can trust them to do now.
I really liked doing different projects with my students at the end of the year so giving them the choice to pick their own project, and they can check in with you about what that project is so it still meets the standards of your classroom, and one student isn’t writing three sentences while another one is making an entire docu-series about something. They can become an expert. So you can tell each student or they can pick out of a bunch of papers out of a fishbowl, depending on what subject you’re doing, and become an expert on how an equation in math came to be or an invention in science or delve deep into an author or a book or a play or whatever it may be or some facts in history. They can definitely show what they know by doing that, and it helps them teach each other more so than listening to an adult day in and day out. So it just breaks up the norm a little bit that way.
I also really, really liked having discussions and debates at the end of the year. You know which students can handle those discussions and which can’t, so it may work for some classes and not for others. But having debates could work in any subjects that you have.
I also liked NaNoWriMo, which is National November Writing Month for the English and writing teachers out there. I always had my students write me a novel, and I taught fifth grade and these students wrote a novel every single year. NaNoWriMo has their entire program for free online. It has the teacher’s guide and the student’s guide, you can print out the entire student’s guide for them to fill out. So they picked up on everything that they learned from grammar, reading, writing the entire year, and they were able to write comic books, historical fiction, science fiction, whatever they were into.
I also liked having my students either create an invention for science, do an escape room. If it was math, they would have to essentially create an escape room and then put clues around the classroom and the other students would have to escape the room by solving the clues. For math, I also liked designing a theme park, and I taught fifth grade up to middle school, so the math is going to be a little easier than high school. But if you’re designing a theme park, you can use every method of math and science to figure out how to design your theme park perfectly, and my students really liked that one. Another way to break up the norm, choosing different reading materials. Have your kids read something they wouldn’t normally read. Have them compare what you are reading in class to whatever they just like to read, whether it’s a comic book or anything else. Have them compare those themes.
Having class outside is actually really, really good psychologically for you and your students. It reduces stress. It has better health. You have an improved mood, better class teamwork, natural energy boost, all of that stuff. So having class outside for even 10 minutes, once a week could really help. And then making your class more interactive. So if you don’t usually use things like Pear Deck to have your students answer inside of a PowerPoint. Playing Kahoot, or playing those types of games. If your kids are usually in their seats, have them stand up and write on the board more or have them stand up whenever they have the answer to the question and then have to walk back to the end of the room, whoever touches the wall first gets to answer the question. Stuff like that so that it breaks up the norm of your classroom a little bit more.
Another great way to help your students to feel like they’re just not getting overwhelmed with the end of year prep as well is to just incorporate those rewards for those students, and for you as well. So take a moment, write a note of praise for your students. If you notice that they have been doing well in a particular area … I know we give verbal praise quite often, but sometimes just that extra like, “Good job,” through a note is something that will stick with them a little bit more. I actually had a student, I used to slap something down on a post-it note and just put it on their desk or whatever. I have had students later that I’ll walk by and that post-it note is still in their notebook. So it makes a huge difference to recognize these students and know that you see them.
You can incorporate Fun Fridays. So whether it be something to end a unit. We were studying American colonialism. At the end, we had a day where people were getting diseases and dying and things like that, or they were helping to treat somebody else that had a disease. We’d be telling them that they’d need more fruit so we had food throughout the classroom, all kinds of things to reinforce what that unit was about. That also goes into food days. I had a unit that we incorporated butterbeer with Harry Potter or things like that. So we would make them in the classroom, have floats or ice cream socials, pizza days are huge.
Things like homework passes or be a teacher for a day. Those have to be very few and far between, but the students kind of dig it to be able to get up there and sit in the teacher’s chair. And it can be used both as a reward and as a way for some of your students that maybe are a little more behaviorally challenged to recognize how hard it is to have to keep things on track as well.
So Agustina is going to talk about some ways to help motivate those students to get these rewards.
My biggest tool for motivating my students was always having them set SMART goals throughout the year.
Goal setting can help trigger new behaviors, it guides their focus, they can sustain more momentum longer, and SMART goals does help you do all of this. So your goals always have to be specific. It is not, “I want to do better at math.” It’s, “What specific standard in math and what specific part of the standard do you want to get better at?” So, “I want to get better at multiplication.” Okay, still get more specific.
Make sure it’s measurable. So, “I want to be able to complete this many math facts in this many minutes,” is a measurable goal. Or, “I want to be able to read three books a week or three books a month,” whatever is realistic for your student.
It’s attainable so that is that realistic piece. If one of your students comes up to you and says that they want to read 100 books from now until Sunday, to take a second and talk with that student. Be realistic. So you know what you and your students are capable of. Make sure that the student isn’t just giving themselves the simplest goal either. So it’s not always about those overachievers, sometimes a student may want to sneak in there with, “I want to read a book from now until next year.”
And give yourself a deadline, so definitely has to have a deadline. And then when that deadline is up, and you can set a deadline with your student depending on what that goal is, once that deadline is up, then they create a new goal and it can be based off of the old goal if they didn’t attain it as much as they wanted to.
Another thing I liked doing with my students is solo competitions. So my students were very competitive every year, and I think they fed off of my competitiveness a little bit which probably helped. But I didn’t always like them competing against each other so I always liked doing some solo competitions as well. So creating some classroom competitions for your students where if your students stated that one student read five books last year and another student read 10, then that one student’s goal for this year is reading six and the other one’s is 11. Something like that. And then they can keep track of it themselves. Students can also create competitions for each other or for themselves. So creating a math equation that the other students have to solve would be something. Having one student go up to the board and creating just an insane math equation. They have to have solved it first so that you make sure it can be done, and then they can put it on the board for other students to solve.
They can do something like Wordle every day and just create their own Wordle game in the classroom. Solo competitions also help the student learn the complete standard. So I taught my students in fifth grade how to read a standard, how to dive deep into a standard, and then how to chunk out a standard. So they would actually know whether they completed every single part of that standard. They can explain concepts in depth. So if they really like a fact in history, you can have them dive deeper into that. And then teaching another student, so you can have solo competitions just based on, “Okay. How many students did you talk to and teach this fact this week?” And that can also just help your students learn about each other towards the end of the year and just have fun as a class.
So one of the biggest things that we all need to do is take care of ourselves, and I know it seems like such an overused thing in education and advice for teachers is to take care of yourself. But it’s also what is going to give you the energy to get through those last couple of months. So know when to say no. There are plenty of ways here on the screen for you. You can say no in so many ways. “I’m sorry,” “I can’t do it,” “I’m already busy,” “Thank you for thinking of me, but not at this time.” It is okay when you are feeling all of that and you’ve got your lesson plans to work on and papers to grade, it’s okay to say no. Find a coworker that you can vent to and that will understand and not try to solve and just listen. When you have a lesson plan that just falls flat and you are just wondering how you can make it better, speak with that person. If you need help, ask them for help. If you just want to talk about it, let them know that so that they know what their capacity in the conversation is.
Begin each day with a temp check, both for you and your students. So when you wake up in the morning and you recognize, “I am just low energy today,” recognize that and it’s okay. Try to incorporate a little extra reading time. You can adjust your lesson plans to be relevant when you have a low energy day. Hopefully, it’s not every day, but when you have those occasionally you can adjust those lesson plans so that you are able to catch up on your grading while they’re doing something else. Set limitations, make sure that your limitations are healthy and that they’re realistic and that they are things that you are able to do without causing yourself more stress.
Use your lunch and prep time for your lunch and prep. I know a lot of times we are grading papers, we are setting up the lessons for next day during our lunch. It’s okay to pause. It’s okay to say, “I’m just going to leave that over here, recharge myself, refresh my brain, take my lunch, and then I’m going to come back with a fresh set of eyes.” And you’re probably going to do better at it than trying to power through because you took that time for yourself. Prep time can be for prep time. Sometimes it turns into that venting session, and if that’s completely necessary, then that’s great. But when it’s not necessary, sometimes it also becomes our social hour and we’re not using it quite for prep, and then we end up staying after school and doing it instead. So use that prep time for your prep and use your social time for later.
Schedule a vacation countdown. I know so many people with a countdown on their phone, and it can be for anything. But I myself, when I know that I have something really great to look forward to in 15 days, 8 hours, 47 minutes, and 13 seconds, then I feel so much better than just being like, “What do I have to look forward to right now?” I know that teaching is rewarding and that we all have things that we look forward to on a daily basis, but looking forward to those larger picture vacations, weekend, date night, it can be for anything. It can be 12 hours, 16 minutes until Friday afternoon, and we are eating ice cream in our classroom. So go ahead and set those countdowns. They can be private. They can be classroom related. You can encourage your students to do the same.
And then finally we have some digital strategies for finals. So we are going to be covering this much more a later, but a quick preview. Basically, don’t add more work for yourself. Use the resources that you already have available. Hopefully you’ve incorporated those resources throughout the year, and it’s just a matter of shifting focus to be more finals related then weekly related. So many of our platforms include self grading activities, assignments, readings, assessments, all of those things. They’re already included in a lot of the platforms. We spoke about that a little bit previously so. You can also teach students studying strategies to prepare for finals. We went over that in our February webinar on state testing tools. So we talked a lot about Kahoot, Quizlet, using our benchmark testing, academic checks. We also went over a little bit more motivation, classroom strategies, things like that. So also please take a look back at that one.
Alright. Thank you Angel and Agustina for sharing those great tips. And teachers, we appreciate you taking the time to watch this. Again, we hope that you got some value from the tips that were shared. And please join us for our April webinars, Angel mentioned we will be going in more detail on finals prep.
If there are any future topics that you would like to see, please visit us at edtechsolutions.com. Let us know. We always love to cater to the ideas that teachers need most in the classroom. And you will also be able to find our previous Teacher Corner webinars there as well. We hope you have a great rest of your day.
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