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What To Do When Teaching Feels Like Groundhog Day

Julie shares what to do when you find yourself in a teaching rut. She shares specific tips and resources so you stop going through the motions and start getting excited about the teaching months to come.

Updated: May 15, 2019

Stressed teacher

Shakespeare said that April was the cruelest month, but if you are a teacher, you might disagree. Many of us feel that the months after winter break and before spring break are the most challenging. I know I did.

On Saturday, February 2nd, we will wake up and find out if we have six more weeks of winter when Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction. If you are more motivated to crawl under the covers and binge watch Netflix rather than try something new in the classroom, know that you aren’t alone.

Sometimes teaching can feel a lot like the movie, Groundhog Day. Each day is the same loop repeated over and over again and you find yourself going through the motions.

If you feel this way, know you aren’t alone. Also know that there are some small changes that you can make to break the cycle.

If you haven’t seen the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, it is worth watching this weekend, especially if you feel like you are stuck in a teaching rut and going through the motions in your classroom.

I promise I won’t spoil the movie, but a brief synopsis is that Murray’s character, Phil, gets caught in a time loop and repeats the same day over and over again. If you are reading this and thinking, that sounds a lot like teaching, then you may find the following suggestions helpful for getting out of a teaching rut.

Try Something New

Changes are you have routines and procedures and a class structure that you stick to. The kids know what to expect and so do you. If this is the case, congrats, that is no easy feat! On the other hand, if you stick with what works and every day feels like a repeat performance for both you and your students, then you are likely to burnout and students might be less engaged. Consider trying Jigsaw Groups to encourage cooperative learning and support students to take ownership over the process. Instead of whole class instruction, consider trying Reading Strategy Groups to support students to deepen their reading comprehension. Or try one of these new tech tools from our post, 8 Apps You Need To Be Using In Your Classroom.

Get Online and Get Inspired

Social media has allowed us to open up our classroom doors and share the work we are doing with other teachers around the globe. If you spend any time on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, you know that there are amazing and creative teachers sharing exciting new resources and strategies 24/7. Podcasts have also become another way for teachers to share their learnings with each other and spark creativity. The key here is to seek inspiration, not to compare yourself with others. It is easy to get defeated by a teacher’s curated highlights reel, but it’s all about how you frame it. Go into your online searches knowing that you are looking for new ideas, not to beat yourself up. Here are Instagram Accounts That Every Teacher Should Follow and 10 Must-Listen Podcasts For Teachers to get you started.

"Sometimes teaching can feel a lot like the movie, Groundhog Day. Each day is the same loop repeated over and over again and you find yourself going through the motions."

Go To A Conference

One of the most effective ways I got out of a teaching rut was to go to a conference. Not only will you learn something new, but you will be surrounded with resources and other teachers, which can spark new ideas and creativity through presentations, workshops, and conversations. One of my favorite new conferences is The Teacher Self-Care Conference. It’s affordable, and all the speakers are current or former teachers. The next one is taking place in Atlanta June 20-22. Refer to 10 Not To Miss Education Conferences in 2019 for more events to attend. If traveling to a conference isn’t in the cards this year, consider participating in an edchat on Twitter. They are free, happen regularly and give you access to an instant community of fellow educators. Here are 40 Education Twitter Chats Worth Your Time.

Start Saying No

There are so many demands on teachers, and there is limited time to meet those demands. Teaching is physical, emotional, and requires energy. If you are in a teaching rut, you are likely running on empty. Sometimes the most effective way to get out of a rut is clear the clutter in your mind and take a step back from your to-do list. This doesn’t mean you should call out sick for a week, but it does mean that redefining what success looks like and how much you can handle is essential to your own sanity. Read Maintaining Your Mental Health As A Teacher for ways to prioritize self-care and wellness.

Redefine What Success Looks Like

If you are anything like me, you want to do the best that you can at everything you do. While it’s an admirable quality, it is impossible to maintain one-hundred percent of the time. We set high expectations for ourselves and for our students, but we are also human. If you aim for perfection on a daily basis, you are likely to find yourself feeling depleted and disappointed. When you find yourself in a teaching rut, it is a good time to reflect and rethink your goals. Get some ideas by reading 4 Tips For Making 2019 Your Best Year Yet and How To Turn Teaching Goals Into Teaching Habits.

Don’t let Phil determine if you stay in a teacher rut, even if it means more winter is headed our way. Regardless of whether or not he sees his shadow, you can take small steps to make the next few months some of your best yet.

How do you get yourself out of a teaching rut? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Author Bio:

Julie Mason is the Head of Curriculum and Content for TeacherVision. She taught middle and high school English for eight years, and then worked as an instructional coach, supporting K-12 teachers to blend and personalize their classrooms.

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