Overcoming Spring Slump

By Ruth Manna on April 13, 2011

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.



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Positive Self-Talk
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.”


Listing Accomplishments
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.

ImagesCAA3AS6P 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.

Teacher_playground_rotating[1] 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. 

23[1] 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.

Comments

Hi Debbie, I like your idea about starting with journal entries and having students make individual lists and then combining. You may also want to have a class list that you continue to add to, because some of us (me included) are slower and take more time to think of things. The first day or two will net the most obvious memories of what happened recently, but if you work on a list over a period of weeks, you'll get real gems from throughout the year. Just a thought.

I love the Remembering Idea. We write in our journals daily, so I am going to make this one of our journal questions and then share them with the parents. Thanks

Veronica, You probably won't have another year as tough as your first year. Next year is will be smoother, especially if you're in the same grade and school. You won't be a new teacher, you'll understand the school culture and protocols, and you likely have colleagues who will support you. Teaching really will get easier.

Thanks for the great article. I'm a first year teacher and I'm definitely beginning to feel the letdown of all the things I didn't do or want to/should have done differently. You made me really think about all the good that's come out of this year. Thanks so much!

Christine, Last year I left my classroom to work in a central office as an administrator. I can't tell you how much I miss being in a classroom with a group of students. Whenever I can, which isn't often, I try to visit classrooms. Teachers think I'm there to observe them, but really I just love being with their students. :) For me, I know I always want to maintain that connection to classrooms, whether that's through my current job, my community, two of my own children who are teachers, or my grandchildren. It's been a huge part of my adult life and I can't imagine not being able to at least visit. When next fall comes, you may feel that tug too. Maybe there's a way you can volunteer or work part-time to maintain your connection to students and schools. Best wishes to you!

I love ending the year with writing a class newspaper - they combine memories, keyboarding skills, creative writing, grammar lessons... And what a keepsake!! I am feeling a different kind of end of the year stress - I am retiring - anyone else struggling with that situation. I will miss the creativity and challenge of the classroom. For those of you staying - make it your passion. You are making a difference.

Jessica, Next year will definitely be better. The first couple of years are the hardest for most teachers. So think positive thoughts!

Thank you! I am starting to get very excited about next year, but can catch myself getting down about this year and how much better it could have been! But there is always next year and the years keep getting better and better ( I'm a second year teacher). Thanks again!

Pam, Isn't it comforting to know that we're not alone in having these feelings?! Lots of teachers are feeling pressured and disappointed at this time of year. Hang in there! The school year will be over before you know it.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I have been suffering from this syndrome for the last week. I love the line, there's always next year! I plan on printing out this article and carrying it around in my gradebook, that way it is always close at hand. Thanks again!

Thank you for this. It's much needed at this time of year.

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