It’s that time of year again.
It’s the time of year that falls between the holiday season and spring break. It’s that time of the year where the prescribed off days are few. It’s that time of the year where children begin to feel restless, the calendar seems to stand still and the adults are starting to lose their patience. It’s that time of the year where the realization of the end of year failures for specific students grows stronger. Yes, ladies and gentlemen; I am talking about the months of January, February, and March.
There are cycles to the school year. Some people think of extracurricular activities when they think of the yearly cycles. Some people think of the marking periods when they think of the yearly cycles. But I tend to think of the yearly cycles in a different way. September and October are the beginnings of the year. It’s too early to call anything, teachers and students are still getting into the habit of teaching and learning, and the foundations of the school year are just being laid. November and December represent the holiday season. Everybody looks forward to Thanksgiving break and Christmas break. While those months are also the transition from the first marking period to the second, everything surrounds the four-day weekend in November and the week-plus off during Christmas and New Year’s.
The month of April is the last serious month of the school year. Standardized testing either has already happened or is about to happen. The months of May and June are the close of the school year; pretty much the school year is over. Very little in the way of new material is being introduced to students. Teachers are reviewing and prepping for finals at this point. Also, student and teacher levels of classroom fatigue are at an all-time high. The last day of school maybe in June but most people, teachers, and students included mentally departed school in April. The months of January, February, and March, however, are the dog days of the school year. They feel like they’ll never ever end. These are the crucial days that as a teacher, you must show your strongest resolve.
I don’t have the numbers or scientific research to back up what I’m about to tell you – all I have are my experiences. More fights, conflicts, and punishments happen during these three months than at any point in the school year. Students become both restless and apathetic. As a teacher, you are mandated to succeed in spite of student restlessness and apathy. So how do you do it? How do you succeed in spite of the students’ fatigue, and your own? How do you keep your fire burning to teach and how do you keep the engagement level high for students? Unfortunately, there’s no full proof answer. However, there are some things that you can do to help make these months not so tough.
- Reserve any of your desired field trips for the months of January, February and or March. Use those anticipated field trips to break the monotony of the time of year. A good time to go on a field trip is during the month of January.
- Take advantage of the opportunities to do outside of the box teaching and learning during Black history month. Black history month is a time for assemblies, guest speakers, the introduction of new content, current events discussions and field trips that will break up the monotony and also teach some powerful lessons to students.
- Incentivize their learning. Now is a great time to establish a learning objective and offer prizes, awards or a classroom pizza party. The focus on the end goal for students will be a good motivator – if the prize is worth it. Make sure you give a good gift for reaching the goal to sustain engagement.
- Create a continuous service learning project by forging a partnership with the local nonprofit. Any opportunity to work with a community organization is good. Getting the opportunity to apply learning outside the classroom is great. Create a partnership with an organization and get your kids out the classroom to engage in service once a month. This can help break the monotony.
- Plan a Spring pep rally. This is different from the pizza party. This would require you to get permission from the principal and to collaborate with your fellow teachers, but it could be worth doing. High schools do nights of games and activities. Elementary and middle schools could do the same thing during the school day. If not the full day, maybe a half day can be dedicated to school-wide competitions – academic and athletic – with prizes and rewards for winners. This is a nice event to have in the middle of the year to break things up. Instituting such an event may be a start to a new tradition.
January, February, and March are tough days to get through during any school year. However, choosing to just “get through them” rather than making the most of those days could make the days longer for you. Make sure that you do what you can to render those days as most enjoyable as possible – because the kids might make them unenjoyable if you don’t.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!