There is moment in the Fall where every teacher, the aged and experienced as well as the young and new ones, hit the metaphorical “November Wall.” It’s that moment where all of the stresses of the new school year pile up and can feel like a wall that is impossible to navigate around. The luster of the new year has worn off, discipline issues have grown in number, and assignments have not been turned in. Parents have ended their grace period and flood teachers with emails and phone calls about why their student did not pass, or get an A, in the first marking period. Administration does not seem to have your back as much as they made it sound back in professional development in August. The stresses of being a teacher, the reason we get Summers off, are as present as ever, and Summer is still half a year away.
The November Wall is real and can make it hard to look on the bright side of teaching. But there’s good news: walls can be knocked down.
Here are 5 things that make up the November Wall, and 5 ways to knock them down.
Lack of Administrative Support
Teachers are the ones in the classrooms with their students everyday. They see firsthand what works and doesn’t work; what motivates kids and what causes them to check out. And so one of the most draining parts of being a teacher is when an administrator does not trust us to do what is best. When all you hear is ‘no’ from your administrator, or they work totally counter to your suggestions, it can instantly suck the joy out of teaching. In times like these, sometimes the best thing to do is stay out of their way. Focus on your students and the work in front of you, and avoid the front office like the plague. Of course there are more long-term steps to be taken against a bad principal, but if they are causing a November Wall and causing you a lot of stress in this busy season, sometimes the best thing to do is work apart from them.
So. Much. Grading.
Papers and essays are piling up right now, and the load can feel overwhelming. Your original plan might have been to chip away at them, maybe grading 10 a day for 10 days until they were all graded.
And then you remembered grading is the worst, and you are 2 weeks in and the stack of essays is as tall as ever. One of the best solutions is to commit to a “hell-day.” This is an evening or maybe a weekend day where you make that pile disappear. You resign to the fact that the next 8 hours might be a little hellish, but you will not stop until the papers are graded and you get caught up. No it won’t be fun, but the burden and stress of seeing that pile of papers on your desk will be gone.
November is the time of year when helicopter parents come out in full force. Their child’s grade starts dipping for the first time, and they go into panic mode. Unfortunately, teachers usually bare the brunt of their panic, and this can cause unneeded stress. The best way to handle this is to be proactive and contact parents before they contact you. A simple email or phone call making parents aware of missed assignments or a poor performance on a test can go a long way. It reminds them that you have the best intentions for their child, and that you really do care. It sounds silly, but many parents need to be reminded of this.
The November Wall can also be caused by boredom. Sometimes the work of being a teacher can get stale, and the monotony can make you drag your feet and lose sight of why you do this. The best cure for this is to inject some fun into the classroom. Carve out a week to do an interesting project with your class. Let your students build something, plan a poetry slam, take your students on a hike, ask for a field trip; anything to shake it up a little. Because of the nature of the work, sometimes teaching can become mundane, and every now and then you need a change. And guess what? So do your students.
November is the time of year when you remember how tiring teaching really is. The truth is, you might need a little break. Burn one of your personal days away in the next couple weeks. Your class will be fine without you- actually- they will be better because you took a day off. Sleep in on a Wednesday, get a massage, go hunting, hit up Target; do something away from the classroom. Sometimes a day off is all you need to reenergize and refuel to make it until Christmas Break.