Overcoming Spring Slump
Every April, with the end of the school year looming like a black storm cloud, I experience a feeling of letdown and quiet panic. I suddenly realize all the wonderful plans and ideas I had last September aren’t going to happen because I’m running out of time. The challenging student I wanted to reach, the science unit I promised myself I’d improve, and those math games I was going to make: all will have to wait until next year. There just isn’t time.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling overwhelmed with the end of the year in sight. Over the years I’ve worked out ways of coping with Spring Slump. If, like me, you tend to experience end-of-year blues, I hope these coping mechanisms will help. Read the strategies in this post, and write in with your own ideas and solutions.
Photo: Spending time outdoors helps.
As difficult as it can sometimes be, repeating reassuring sentences to myself allows me to relax and accept what I haven’t done. Examples of some positive sentences are:
“Mistakes happen. I can learn from my mistakes.”
“Some problems can’t be solved in a year.”
“Next year you’ll have another chance.”
“All teachers may not reach all students.”
“Look at how hard you’ve worked.”
Going beyond positive self-talk, I make a list of things I have accomplished: IEP meetings attended, students referred for SPED evaluations, community service my students did, chapter books we read aloud and discussed, parent conferences where there was a real connection, student squabbles settled, and meaningful conversations with colleagues over lunch. A lot of good has been accomplished.
Communicating With Parents
I write a weekly newsletter throughout the school year. Maybe you do, too, or maybe you write a class blog. At this time of year, I like to report to parents the changes their children, as a group, have undergone and the progress they have made, without singling out individuals. There’s definitely been growth in both social skills and academics. Students really do develop, and a distinct, unique class community forms over time. Reflecting on positive change with parents is comforting.
Spending Time Outdoors
Lingering on a sunny playground for a few extra minutes of sunshine helps both me and my students. So does taking a nature walk, writing outside on clipboards, or occasionally reading aloud outdoors. This past winter in New England was dark and very snowy, so spending time outdoors in April makes us all feel better.
Remembering With Students
One of my favorite end-of-year activities is to make a “We Will Remember” list. I post a large piece of chart paper and several different colored markers and write “We will remember . . . ” on the top of the paper. I start the list with one or two specific personal memories about the year, like “Lion Dance on the Chinese New Year” or “Singing Happy Birthday Song in Spanish.” Over a period of several weeks, students add to this list. We usually need several sheets of paper as the list grows with favorite read-aloud books and projects, funny incidents and sayings, and group accomplishments. At the very end of the year, I type up the list and give each student a copy. I put a copy on the outside of my class door, and send one home with my newsletter, too.
Planning for Next Year
It takes pressure off this year’s disappointments if I look ahead to next year. I make plans for what I’ll do over the summer: a course I’ll take, a new room arrangement I want to try, and new back-to-school activities I want to prepare. Thinking about the future cheers me up. Every summer I reorganize part of my classroom library, weeding out old books and leveling new ones so I can put more readable books into the hands of my students. It might seem weird, but I look forward to spending quiet time in my classroom over the summer.
Building New Relationships
You may have noticed this phenomenon: When spring comes, the second graders, who have ignored me all year, suddenly say hello to me in the hallways or come over and chat with me on the playground. Younger students are thinking ahead, too, and know they may be in my class next year. They may have older brothers or sisters who were in my class, or have heard all about our shark dissection from an older friend on the bus. For whatever reason, they’re curious and want to get to know me. Of course in late spring I’ll meet with their teachers and look at their reading and math assessment results, but now’s a great time for me to meet enthusiastic, upcoming students and get to know them as individuals.
One of the best things about teaching is there’s always next year. There’s the promise that when September rolls around I’ll have a chance to start over with a new group of students. That promise, and the strategies I’ve listed here, get me through Spring Slump.