If so, then it’s time for a break. The best thing to do is turn off your computer, put your books away, close your planning book and take some time to think about other things. Really, just shut it down.
I can hear you saying to yourself, “I can’t because I’m expected to have this done by…” whatever deadline you’ve set for yourself. You can shut it down, though, and you should because you are feeling overwhelmed. And, you are most likely feeling overwhelmed because you are overwhelmed.
This job is really demanding sometimes, and will push you beyond your limits, no matter how much you care about the students. People generally don’t seem to understand that. How could they unless they’ve done it? And, sorry to say it, but here it is… It can even sometimes feel that your administrators don’t understand what your workload is like. You have so much to do and so many people asking you questions and needing your help, that you sometimes don’t get a chance to eat or get some water or do the things you had planned to do that day. And, because you couldn’t do them, you are not ready for tomorrow. Yikes, stress!
When you’re having these thoughts and feelings, listen to them. When things feel like they are too much, it’s because they are. So, set everything aside and go home. Nurture yourself.
Go get some coffee, take a walk, go to a movie. Let yourself get back in touch with other things that matter. Read a chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to read. Play some music and dance in your living room (or classroom). You need a break, both mentally and physically.
When you go back to work, all that stuff will feel a bit easier. You may find that some of the problems have resolved themselves. Or, because you’ve calmed down and relaxed and are feeling better, you think of easy, creative solutions. You get some ideas. Novelty returns.
Give yourself a much needed break, even while still at work.
It’s okay to find an easy activity for the day to give you a bit of recovery time. Or, work in a review day and pick some random problems from the book. Don’t give homework.
Ask students to write 5 quiz questions for the next quiz based on the assignments so far. They will be working and you can circulate to see what they are thinking. Ask for 2 easy problems, 2 medium problems and 1 tough one. You can even differentiate and ask some students to write only 3 questions, but that have multiple parts. Mix it up. Notice what kids are saying, give guidance. Ask them to make mini how-to posters on graph paper. Have them color them in. All of these activities are useful for them, help to build mastery and allow you to relax and help and not be the center of attention.
It’s okay to not reply right away to email. It’ll wait. And your reply may even be better if you give yourself some time.
It’s okay to push your schedule back a day. You made the schedule! You can change it! If you are feeling overwhelmed, your students probably are, too. Ease off the gas pedal.
And, really, no matter what people say to the contrary, it’s okay to postpone the quiz if you haven’t written it. It’s okay to give a quiz with only 5 problems instead of 20. It’s easier to grade that, too. It’s okay to not work insane hours trying to do it all. Listen to your own needs sometimes.
As teachers, we set really high standards for ourselves and sometimes we struggle to meet them. That’s okay. Rest and good health are really important components in running a marathon.
I wonder, is math more demanding to teach than other topics? Well, maybe. I can think of some arguments supporting that view. My only experience teaching another subject was at our local community college, where I taught in the Business Department. It was definitely easier. But, it was also college.
So, let’s take care of ourselves, Math Teachers. When things start to feel really intense, take a break. Let your mind and body relax. You’ll actually handle the work demands better, once you forget about it for a while.