February can be a particularly difficult month for educators; it was for me. The rejuvenation of winter break had passed, spring break seemed light-years away, and my 8th graders were already “checking out.” Grading seemed more mundane by the day and teacher morale was low. Here are four ways to make February a new favorite. 1. Give Choices
Giving students choices, whether big or small, can help engage their interest and motivation. Maybe change the way you assess a big unit. In February, I had students give a public speech or debate. Even those that had a fear of public speaking were happy to do something different and engaging. A perk for me: grading a speech was less time consuming and more entertaining than an essay. (And if you have to grade essays in February, that’s where The Graide Network can help!)
2. Challenge Students
Creating healthy competition is a great way to get students engaged in their work. As a reading teacher, in February I began to advertise a March Madness Reading Challenge where students cast a ballot for every book they read. Basketball teams were replaced with authors of fiction or non-fiction books. The entire junior high was involved. The healthy competition motivated students to collectively read more than 850 books in one month. This challenge significantly increased per student reading consumption in the month during the event as compared to non-competition months. Don’t forget to include the teachers in the challenge too!
3. Teacher Potluck
Having a potluck every Thursday in February amongst teachers served as a great midday motivation, it increased camaraderie, and there were always leftovers on Friday!
4. Remember and Reflect
Recently the press has focused on the declining number of enrollment at teacher training programs, teachers leaving the profession, and how the erosion is steady. These trends about our profession warp society’s perspective and our own conviction about the career path that we have chosen. Rather than succumb to the media’s influence in addition to the negativity from the winter blues, we need to reflect on the experiences and remember the passion that led us to this profession. One organization that can guide us towards this focus is Teacher2Teacher. In February, join them in reflecting and connecting about this incredibly rewarding profession. Follow @Teacher2Teacher and reflect (#whyiteach).
May this February be the best one yet!
Please share your strategies of making the winter months better in the comment section below.
Angelina Tracey is a middle school reading specialist and former middle school literature teacher. She is also an avid volunteer, tutor, yogi and dance coach.