Sometimes you just find yourself in a teaching funk. Kids seem to be rallying against you and those slushy, grey days can seem endless.
Since wearing sweatpants and watching Friends in the classroom isn’t a viable option for covering those pesky standards, here are my 8 tips for cheering yourself up. I’ve used these myself (many times), and I hope they bring some added sunshine to your day.
1. Be the Leslie Knope of your building.
Parks and Recreation gave us many gifts and one of them was Leslie. One of the many things I love about her is her ability to give strange and meaningful compliments to the people around her. She gave us, “Ann, you poetic, noble, land mermaid.” And, “Ann, you beautiful, sophisticated, naive, newborn baby!”
We’re constantly pouring out encouragement for our students, so try giving one to a co-worker to relish in the happy moment that follows.
2. Start a prank war.
Take a page from Jim Halpert’s book and find someone to be your Dwight. Last year, during the long grey months of January through March, my co-workers and I got into the best prank war of all-time. This started with the changing of screen savers and escalated to staplers being trapped in Jell-O molds.
The finale involved a total of 800 ping-pong balls being placed into every one of my desk drawers and cupboards with the instructions to “Have a ballin’ Monday.” It was the best—harmless, well-planned, perfectly executed pranks that helped me look forward to coming to work.
3. Get weird.
We rarely interrupt regular class time for something off-topic, but one day my students were talking about squats for some reason, and that’s when I knew we had to get up and move.
After we were done, we went right back to active and passive voice. I left feeling pretty happy about the whole thing (endorphins) and a little bit like the cool teacher, which I almost never am.
4. Rap for your students.
We were reading The Most Dangerous Game, and I wanted the kids to come up with a rap inspired by the events in the story. In order to demonstrate what I was looking for, I had to do what any good teacher would do and model the task.
Find your Nicki Minaj or the little Luda living inside you, and show your students how much swagger you really have.
5. Usher the class in with a little happy music.
Turn on a little Timberlake and welcome your class with the sweet sounds of Justin coming through your speakers. You can even have them dance to their seat like they’re on Ellen, but if they are too cool to bust-a-move, you can just show them how it’s done and break out the lawn equipment (the hedge-clippers, or sprinkler) because you know you’ve got moves.
6. Treat Yo Self Day.
Again, Parks and Recreation taught us a lot about life and the importance of having fun in the workplace. One of these valuable lessons was Treat Yo Self Day. For me, it’s a Diet Coke mid-afternoon. It’s been scientifically proven to improve irritability and boost happiness.
7. Plan a trip.
Long weeks at work can really make me restless. I like to plan little mini-trips, weekend getaways, or dream of bucket list destinations that I could only afford if I was a Real Housewife and getting paid to travel there.
It’s important to have something to look forward to even if it’s just a Saturday day-trip. Exploring always makes me feel refreshed and inspired like the way those women look on razor commercials.
8. Get out of the classroom.
I started a Reading Buddies program at school where I take my eighth graders to the elementary school and have them read with first and second graders. If you don’t have this kind of opportunity, see if you can take them outside and create a nature poem Frost style. Or have them solve math problems in sidewalk chalk.
I know this kind of thing can be tricky, but sometimes I need a change of environment just as much as they do.