6 Tips to Thrive Through the Fourth Quarter

Between testing, rising temps, and squirrelly children, the fourth quarter can get rough for us teachers. That's why I asked a few teacher-friends to share their best tips for thriving through the fourth quarter!

1. Plan it out! It can feel like you have a million things to accomplish before the end of the year, so take some time to sit down and really plan out what needs to be done. Make a master list of your major to-do's, like IEPs, progress reports, and testing. Just seeing it all written down rather than as a vague haze of worry can help you feel more grounded and focused.

2. Be sure to add in FUN activities for the last few weeks of school. The end of the year can be stressful on us teachers AND students, so boost up the positives! Some of my favorites are scrapbooks, school year timelines, guided drawing, and dream boards. {from Allie of Miss Behavior}

3. Take time to out of your busy schedule to enjoy your students. When the end of year testing and procedures can make you absolutely crazy, put all of that aside and enjoy the last moments you have together because you'll miss those little boogers once when they're gone! {From Jessi of Cuties and Cooties}

4. Fourth quarter is a great time to conduct student surveys! Give students an opportunity to reflect on what they've loved about class and what they might change given the chance. You'll get some great information to use over summer when you're ready to start planning, and you're sure to also get a few sweet notes to add to your happy file! Bonus tip: I really love using Google Forms for student surveys! If you have access to technology in the classroom, I highly recommend trying it out. {from Cindy of Where The Wild Students Are}

5. Take time everyday to write down at least one thing that went well. You could write it in a journal, planner, sticky note, or even just a note on your phone. {from Becca of The Teacher's Passport}

6. The end of the year can be so stressful with all of the last minute learning that you want to fit in AND assessment on top of assessment. Find some time to do a fun class reward each day or several days a week if your students earn it! Some of my favorites are "use smelly markers day," play a favorite group game, have a "bubble" party (I bring bubbles for the kids to use at recess), or wear a hat in the classroom. It's motivating for the kids and it helps you to relax and ENJOY your last few weeks with your students! {from Nicole of Firstie Favorites}

Which of these will you be implementing to help you thrive this quarter?

I Am A Teacher With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I am a teacher with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

I was sitting in AP Psychology class, going over the DSM-V checklist for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, when I realized I have this. Not in the way people say they’re “so OCD” or “totally bipolar,” but in the way where I have every symptom on this list and I suddenly realize that these things aren’t normal. I went home and talked to my parents, and my Dad, who’s a doctor, agreed. I’d have the label confirmed when I saw a psychologist in college. After the initial surprise, I actually felt empowered. There was a reason I felt the way I did, and there were things I could do to feel better. For the uninitiated, GAD is what’s called “free-floating” anxiety. I can, and will, worry about anything that crosses my path. My anxiety has never stopped me from doing hard things. But, I can say with confidence that it has made those hard things harder. I want to share my story so that those who suffer from anxiety know that they’re not alone, and perhaps help teachers who do not suffer from mental illnesses better understand their co-workers who do.

I have always been passionate about social justice and working with kids, so as a senior in college I applied and was accepted to an alternate-certification program to teach in a Title I school. The summer training process was rough. I know it was rough for everyone, but I started to genuinely think maybe I could not do this. When I broke down crying to one of the trainers in the program, she told me if I couldn’t handle the training, maybe I wasn’t cut out to do this. Despite my concerns that she was right, I finished the training and became a teacher.

When I started teaching, I was also going to grad school 2-3 nights a week and living very much paycheck-to-paycheck. This was one of the hardest times of my life. While I firmly felt that the expectations placed on me by the program I was in were absurd, it didn’t stop me from blaming myself. Why weren’t the kids listening to me? Why didn’t I know how to teach phonics or sight words or fractions? I know that many teachers in our program felt the same way. But where GAD comes in is that I literally could not stop thinking about school. While I saw other teachers in my program partying and dating and winging their lessons, that was inconceivable to me, especially at the beginning of the year. Now in my fourth year teaching, I have more confidence in my teaching and I make an effort to have a life outside of school. But my GAD is still very much present, and I suspect that it always will be. I can’t speak for all people with GAD, but this is how I believe it’s affected me as a teacher.

1. I blame myself for everything. There are people who internalize and externalize the blame for problems. An internalizer blames themselves, and an externalizer blames outside forces. As a teacher in a Title I school that’s constantly underfunded and underresourced, I’m not exactly set up for success. But if my students’ test scores don’t go up or their behaviors don’t improve, I feel personally responsible.

2. I think every criticism is directed at me. My admin sends out a lot of blanket “friendly reminder” emails. And I’m convinced that every one is a response to something I’ve personally done. If I hear a colleague complaining about a service provider being late, I immediately start trying to figure out if I’ve ever been late to her class, and I’ll worry about it every time I go to that teacher’s class for the rest of all time.

3. I’m easily overwhelmed. I don’t know how much of this is GAD vs. another sensory issue, but chaotic classrooms can make me really panicky. I’m very precise about my own classroom, but as a special education teacher, I spend a lot of time doing inclusion. When many kids are out of their seats, and calling out, and there are papers everywhere, and kids are crowding me and touching me… I start to freak out. Now, that’s not an ideal classroom setting for most students, but some teachers seem to be able to take it all in stride or even thrive off it. I can last for about 20 minutes, and then I feel like crawling under a desk and staying there for the rest of the afternoon.

4. I can’t stop thinking about the kids at home. My husband’s a good sport, but he is so sick of hearing about my kids’ problems. We all care about our kids and worry about their home lives, but for a teacher with GAD you quite literally cannot turn the thoughts off.

5. Problems can feel insurmountable. When you feel like a task is impossible (finishing 5 IEPs in a week, testing all the students by the deadline, etc.), but at the same time you feel like you HAVE to do it and it’ll be 100% your fault if you don’t (see number 1), it can lead to anxiety attack. Some days or weeks are better than others, but let’s just say every co-teacher I work with this year has seen me cry.

If you’re a teacher with an anxiety disorder, do you find the above to be true? What's been helpful for you? You can find some of my tips for teachers with anxiety here.
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