November Blues

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.What teachers have to deal with at this time of year (in addition to teaching, of course) can be daunting—writing report cards, meeting with families at conferences, grading papers, adjusting to a time change, and in some cases, even dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane. It is natural for you and your students to feel overwhelmed and tired. Do the optimism and promise you felt at the beginning of the new school year seem like distant memories? If so, you may have a case of the November blues.

Last year I wrote a post called “Need a New Mattress?” that’s about reconnecting with the sense of fun and purpose you felt at the beginning of the year. That could be an antidote to your November blues. Plus, here are some other free resources from Responsive Classroom’s Resources for Educators that might help rejuvenate you and your class during this often stressful time of year:

  • In “A Fresh Start Leads to Learning,” Gretta Smith shares the story of how, faced with a particularly challenging class during her 23rd year of teaching, she decided to literally start over in November. She stripped back her classroom to its bare September state, re-taught routines and procedures, and recreated her classroom rules. Although you probably don’t need to start over completely, Gretta’s self-aware description of the November changes she made with her class might provide you with some interesting food for thought and ideas to try.
  • Our website has several articles about what to do if the routines and procedures you so carefully taught earlier in the year start to deteriorate. “Keeping Routines Crisp,” is one—it offers some concrete ways to keep routines from slipping as well as suggestions for bolstering students’ success with these tricky times of the day.
  • Do you have a particularly talkative group? Read “Do You Have a Chatty Class?” Mike Anderson offers practical strategies you can try immediately to help channel your students’ talkativeness in positive ways and help them stay on track with their learning.
  • If you are struggling with one or two particular students, check out Andy Dousis’ article “What Teaching Matthew Taught Me.” After noticing the harsh way his students were treating one particularly challenging student in his class, Andy realized that their behavior reflected his own feelings of frustration. The story of how Andy adjusted his attitude and his teaching practices will inspire you.

Teaching takes remarkable resilience and determination. I hope some of these resources help you hang in there!


Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Building Classroom Community, Challenging Behaviors, Middle of the Year

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