The fall is an interesting time. On the one hand, change is in the air. The leaves are turning and temperatures are dropping. We celebrated the recent victory of the Chicago Teachers Union in their efforts to improve the education of their students, and political winds are turning. The country seems poised for change.
At the same time, we are tired and burnt out. It is the beginning of November and we have been in session for around nine weeks. Our students are tired, we are tired, and we are all counting down to Thanksgiving break.
This begs the question: How do we keep that momentum going in the fight for a better education for our students – not only on a political level, but in the classroom as well?
To continue the fight towards educational equity, it is critical that we as a profession are making strides. We can take motivation from Chicago. We can talk to our colleagues about how to maximize our efforts out of the building through collaboration with CEC’s local units and special interest divisions. And hopefully, you voted!
We can send those emails to our representatives and maybe just share that meme or article on social media. Anything to keep the issues front and center.
“Yeah sure, political engagement is critical, but Richard, I am tired! My students are overly squirmy and not engaged. My principal is asking for more and I don’t have much else to give!”
Take a break! Grab that emergency chocolate, step outside, and take a few deep breaths. When I am feeling the pressure, I will take a 5-minute meditation break with my students. I simply google a 5-minute guided stress meditation and play it on my computer. I turn off the lights and we all take a few minutes to re-center.
When it comes to keeping my students engaged this time of year, another new strategy I have been trying is choice. For example, in my personal development class, we are talking about respect. So, I searched for some interesting current events that relate to respect and let my students choose their ending. Interestingly, they chose to listen to the New York Times 1619 Project podcast, which has launched some great discussion on respect, politics, and history.
By letting my students tell me what they wanted to do to reach the standard, I was able to take the burden off of myself and help my entire class feel excited and engaged. Granted, it has taken some critical thinking on my part as to how to relate respect and other personal development topics from Project 1619, but so far so good.
Maybe it is time to take a risk. Let your students know you see that they need a break, and maybe even relate with them. Then, using that amazing culture you created in your classroom, team up and attack the next few weeks. It will go by fast as we approach Thanksgiving and then Winter break – and the more people on board, the better.
It can be difficult to maintain excitement over the recent teacher wins when you’re overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded, but we cannot and will not lose hope. Take a moment with that delicious chocolate, take a deep breath, reach out for support, and make it a team effort. Rest in your abilities – you are amazing and your students are too!
Richard Williams is a special education teacher for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Williams has worked in general education schools in self-contained EBD classrooms and two special education centers for students with severe EBD. He has a master’s in special education from Clark Atlanta University and is currently working towards a doctorate in special education from Cappella University with a focus on students with EBD, transition plans, and preparations for post-secondary life. An active CEC member, Williams has been a Reality 101 blogger as well as a member of the Yes I Can and Diversity Committees. Outside of the classroom, he is a plant-based lifestyle and animal rights advocate who runs a blog of book reviews and current events. In his spare time, he loves to read and go on hikes with his dog.