Do you bounce to the shower each morning ready to greet the day or do you need at least two alarm clocks to roll out of bed on time? Do you finally hit your stride by sixth period or do you rely on a Diet Coke to make it through the afternoon slump?
If you’re a Diet Coke devotee like me, neurogeneticists would call you a lark. Larks, opposite of night owls, are early risers who hit their productive peak in the morning. I’ve always been a lark. I do my best thinking during my morning showers and tackle my morning to-do list with relish.
But when the afternoon hits, I find myself sluggish and irritable. By the time I get home from a long day at work, I have trouble tackling stacks of paperwork or parent emails with the same gusto.
So when I received my teaching schedule for the upcoming school year and realized that I would have a last period prep, my blood ran cold. How could I, a lark, ever hit my productive stride at the end of the day?
While having a last period prep was certainly an adjustment, I’ve learned a few lessons that have helped get me over my afternoon slump and make it a productive part of my day.
1. Make the most of your mornings.
My mind is sharpest in the a.m. With prep at the end of the school day, I know I can’t rely on myself to be my most productive, no matter how admirable my intentions. So I make sure I arrive at school early enough to tackle tasks that require my heaviest mental lifting in that quiet time before the children arrive. I use my mornings to grade student work, develop lessons, and tackle paperwork that requires my immediate and focused attention.
2. Save simpler tasks for your more sluggish times.
After a long day of teaching, the last thing I want to do is dive right into grading essays. Instead, I try to use my last period prep preparing for the next day’s lesson by completing tasks that need to be done but that don’t require a lot of mental exertion. The afternoons are when I copy my objectives and agenda onto the board, rearrange desks, make photocopies, or tidy the classroom. I’m able to be productive without becoming exhausted. Know your strengths, and save the lesson development or piles of student projects for a time when you are more focused and energized.
3. Eat an afternoon slump snack.
During your last period class, sneak away from circulating for a moment and eat a quick, high protein snack like cheese and crackers or a protein bar. It will give you the boost of energy you need to power through the rest of the day.
4. Take a moment for yourself.
If you have a last period prep, chances are that you spent the last six hours or so with a classroom full of children. And while we all entered this profession because we love being around kids, six hours is a long time to constantly be on. Take a moment to recharge your batteries before diving back into a sustained work period. I like to play a favorite album or take a walk down to the lunchroom for a seltzer before tackling my to-do list.
Do you have a last-period prep? How do you tackle the afternoon slump?