5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues in the Classroom
Depending on where you live, winter blues, also known as cabin fever, can have an adverse impact on teachers as well as students. The days become darker, colder, and seemingly longer, which can make you feel “cooped up” or trapped. Before you decide to pack it all in and try to escape, look at these 5 strategies that may help you better cope with this seasonal restlessness, aka winter blues.
Create Healthy Habits
As a teacher, stress comes along with the job. Maintaining healthy habits in your everyday life can make all the difference in how well you cope with feeling cooped up. For a more detailed look at each of the following habits, refer to the article “5 Healthy Habits to Help Avoid Burnout”.
Eat Well: Proper nutrition, with a focus on lean meats and proteins, slow metabolizing carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, will keep your mind and body healthy and equipped to deal with stress.
Exercise: Try a yoga class, dance classes, swimming laps, or any physical activity that you enjoy. The physical and emotional benefits from daily exercise will lead to a feeling of well being that will truly help battle those blues.
Foster Friendships and Family Relationships: A support network is critical to finding a healthy life balance. Making time for people that matter in your life will lead to overall health and better coping mechanisms.
Rest: Adequate sleep, along with downtime and leisure, will boost your energy and prepare you for the teaching week ahead.
Spirit: Take time to foster your spirit through worship, meditation, time outdoors, music, poetry, etc. This type of activity is regenerating, energizing and foundational to creating a healthy life.
Incorporate your strengths and passions into your teaching routine.
During the winter, as class life gets a little more dreary, one way to be more effective and energized is to do what you are best at. Are you excellent at incorporating art projects with your lessons? Get out those art supplies! Are you phenomenal at small group teaching as opposed to class lectures? By all means, schedule more small groups! Doing more of what you are good at will give you confidence, and bring a sense of ease to your students as they tune in to your comfort level.
Along those same lines, do what you enjoy. Do you absolutely love ancient history? Now might be a great time to do a unit on the Roman Empire. Do you go gaga over gardening? Allow students to join you in this passion by starting an indoor herb garden. When you are excited, they will be excited. Long days of winter will become memorable and fly by as you impart your interests to your students.
Have fun with your students
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and nothing fosters learning more than a fun atmosphere. Fight against those long winter woes by intentionally bringing fun into your lessons. Here is a list of ideas for fun moments with your students:
Get outdoors: Incorporate a nature notebook into your science lesson, take writing or math work outside, or go on a field trip. A change of pace can be very fun for everyone. Just make sure students have dressed appropriately for the weather.
Play Games: Be creative and use a variety of games for memorization and lesson review. Jeopardy, hangman, quiz bowl, twister on a giant map..think outside the box, and make it fun.
Be Flexible: Daily lesson plans are really important, and you must be prepared. However, if the winter blues are taking hold of your classroom, maybe it’s time to pivot. Be flexible and infuse some creative ideas that will bolster joy during this time.
Keep it Light: There are times to buckle down and be serious, but there can also be a place for a little silliness. If the day seems to be dragging, and you are dealing with frustrated children, try laughing. Throw in a random joke or two. Find ways to let the kids know that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Remember, a smile and a kind word will go a very long way.
Practice thankfulness and positivity
It is so easy to focus on problems. After all, how do we solve issues, if we aren’t looking for them? However, this constant search for what is wrong can lead to discontent, overwhelm and stress. Instead, focus on the positive. Make a running list of all that went well today. When a challenge comes up, play the Polyanna game and say what you are glad about.
A thankful attitude will lighten the load on your heart and mind. Telling others what you are thankful for will affect the environment and produce teachable moments in the whole classroom. Tell Sarah you are thankful she put the books away without being told. Let Billy lead the lunch line because you are thankful that he helped Cody with his math work. This will foster pride in the students, and cause a ripple effect. Other students will want to find ways to get praised as well.
Find someone you can talk to
Stressful days, especially during the long winter weeks, can really build up. Be sure you have someone to regularly talk to who understands your struggles. Find someone with whom you can bounce ideas off of. It may be a spouse, best friend, another teacher, or perhaps a counselor. Talking will really help alleviate your burdens and beat back those winter blues.
Also, give students opportunities to talk to you, or help them find someone else to speak with. Some students have few outlets for expressing their feelings in a healthy way. Give writing assignments about feelings, talk in small groups about emotions, or refer them to counselors when appropriate.
Beating the winter blues can be hard! Creating healthy habits, teaching to your strengths and passions, having fun with students, practicing thankfulness, and talking to others are some ways you can power through this winter season.
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