An End of Year Survival Guide for Teachers

Term 4 is about to begin, and as we approach the last stretch of the school year, teachers all over South Africa can feel the exhaustion seeping into their bones. You’re tired, your students are tired, and everyone is generally just waiting for the school year to be over. How do you manage to stay on top of things and keep the educational wheels turning when your mind and body are aching for rest? It’s time to slow things down, teachers.

Here’s your term 4 survival guide:

Keep it simple

You need to be smart about where you’re investing your already depleted time and energy. Cut the fat from your classes – creating and organizing over-the-top lessons are going to sap the energy out of you, so save the ornate PowerPoint presentations and complex group activities for next year. Your lessons should instead be as simple and as direct as possible. What is the easiest (yet still effective) route to take to achieve the goal of this lesson?

Put your foot down

You are 100% entitled to say “no”. If you’re asked to help organise or chaperone an extra activity, meeting, or event, and your plate is already full, politely refuse. If the principal insists, use this strategy: “I have w, x, and y on my plate already. I can do z, but only if one (or more) of the other tasks are passed on to someone else.” That way your workload stays the same, and the head can see that you’re open to compromise.

Have a plan of action

As the saying goes; a failure to plan is a plan to fail! Plan as much in advance as possible and stick to it. Disorganisation only makes you frantic, frazzled and more stressed. When you’re already feeling burnt out you want less stress, not more. Have a timeline and due dates for lessons, homework, tests, and grading. Keep track of the dates of extracurriculars, meetings, and PTA events.

Pick your battles

We don’t always get along with our colleagues. Don’t rise to the bait or pick sides in staffroom politics. It will only add to your exhaustion and take up brain space. Take everything with a pinch of salt and move on. Of course, if a particular coworker gets out of hand and it’s too much for you to ignore, either sit down with them and have a mature conversation or bring it up with management. Develop an I-will-not-be-ruffled attitude.

Have a grading party

If you just can’t set aside the time to grade papers little by little, throw a grading party for yourself and some of your favourite colleagues to get it all done in one go. Order a pizza, maybe bring out a bottle of wine, and settle down for a good long grading session. It’s easier to get it done when the group is just as focused as you want to be, so be selective about who you invite. A group setting also means you can pick the brain of fellow colleagues, or share a student’s silly answer and have a good giggle.

Classroom behaviour and discipline

Students are particularly rowdy this time of year, and while we can’t control their excitement for the holidays, we can offer them calm and routine when they enter our classrooms. Irritability and erratic behaviour from us teachers will only add fuel to the fire. Take deep breaths, slow down your reactions, and try to maintain perspective.

With these survival tips in your arsenal, you will be well prepared to take on term 4 and everything it throws at you. Don’t forget about self-care outside of the classroom – hobbies, exercise, and downtime will do wonders for your stress levels. Have a happy term, teachers!

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