If you could be granted one wish for the 2022-23 school year, what would it be? Manageable class sizes? Parents who instinctively trust you? More contracted planning time? Perfectly-behaved students?
Each of these things would bring multiple benefits cascading down onto teachers–and ultimately their students. But they are unlikely to come about due to the ever-present budget constraints, the current teacher shortage, and the simple nature of human beings. At present, these are largely a fantasy. Sigh.
But teachers’ wishes are valid; they know exactly what would improve their quality of life during the school year. I surveyed my teacher friends on their hopes for the 2022-2023 school year, and this is what they said:
A stronger work/home balance.
It’s no secret that many teachers feel like they’re drowning during the school year. Putting in long hours both at school and at home. Emailing all hours of the day. Meeting after meeting taking up valuable planning time. Spending their weekends writing lesson plans and grading papers long outside of their contracted hours.The work seems to never end, and it can be extremely difficult to leave work at work both physically and emotionally.
Something to try: Though the work/home balance may never feel quite, well, balanced during the school year, effective time management and being intentional about bringing work home can both help bring you balance and rest. Trying a few grading hacks can help as well. Promise yourself you’ll try something new this year and see if it works!
One teacher told me she dealt with two health issues all throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Now that it’s summer, guess what? The issues are gone. This mirrors the experiences of teachers all over the country, as stress is proven to bring about an assortment of physiological problems. It’s important to set boundaries and stick to them, but that’s much easier said than done when deep in the trenches of a school year. Wellness is key in maintaining the stamina and motivation required to push through challenging seasons in the classroom.
Something to try: Surround yourself with a solid support system both at home and at school. Ask them to help hold you accountable for the boundaries you promised yourself you’d stick to. (And check out our collection of posts on teacher wellness to help pinpoint specific issues you may have!)
The biggest curveball schools ever faced crashed in like a meteor in March 2020. Ever since then, rapid-fire change has continued: virtual teaching, managing extended absences, running out of sick days, new policies, new mandates, parental division on said policies and mandates, etc. Frankly, our teachers (and other school staff) are weary of this and would just like to have a “normal” year, whatever that looks like.
Something to try: Lean into what you already know and trust yourself; if something worked well last year, re-use it. And ask for help when you need it on things that are new. Learn from others and collaborate with teachers to find the most efficient ways to take on new things.
Excitement about new content.
Quite often, a new school year comes with new content to teach. It may be a single unit, or it could be an entirely new grade. Either way, the change can be daunting and will without a doubt create more work on the front end, making it difficult to get excited about the upcoming year.
Something to try: The hope is that in those planning stages, you will renew your love for the content and find joy and excitement about getting to teach it. Look for that spark while planning new content and fan it until it grows. Ponder the why-do-we-have-to-learn-this question from students beforehand, and design your lessons to build in the answer organically.
Positive attitudes all around.
This is a doozy. Because frankly, teachers have justifiable reasons to voice concerns on a daily basis. But bad attitudes are more contagious than the omicron variant. And trying to maintain a positive attitude in a sea of negativity is exhausting.
Something to try: Sometimes adopting an “It is what it is” attitude can help; if a situation is out of your control, take a deep breath and don’t waste any more time on it. Find the good in unlikely situations – the laughter, the silver lining, the colorful story that will arise out of it – and spread that to others.
To see the fruits of my labor. I’ll be honest: this one broke my heart. Many teachers are familiar with this struggle because the negative experiences somehow overshadow the positive ones, even when the ratio is usually heavily positive. We forget that for every one difficult student, there are probably 15 that don’t give you any trouble. Same for parents.
Something to try: Step back and look at your day objectively. Sure, three kids failed your test, but how many passed? How many improved from the previous test grade? Maybe you had a couple discipline issues, but listen to the number of students who thank you on their way out of your classroom. The ones whose faces light up when they see you. The ones who can’t start their day without a hug from their teacher.
If it’s (understandably) too hard to see yourself objectively, reach out to a trusted colleague; you’ll likely feel comforted. Any time I started second-guessing myself, I would talk to a teacher neighbor and soon see that my perception was often taking a negative tilt. Their reassurance was far better, I quickly learned, than getting sucked into the whirlpool of futility.
No matter what your wishes may be, we here at Every Teacher Every Day are standing right behind you, wishing and hoping that 2022-2023 will be your best one yet!
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