Teaching Profession Opinion

When Teaching Makes You Slumpish

By Hanne Denney — December 09, 2007 2 min read
Image of school staff in a hallway.
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I have been sluggish recently. Like a slug, in a slump, for about the last month. I am slumpish. I think my mind is trying to go into hibernation. Each day has become a long list of to-do’s and meetings. Each day’s class follows the same routine. My lunch is boring. I climb into bed the same time each night, and rise around the same time. I don’t want to do much at home. I’m in an early winter cave. No creativity.

I knew I was in trouble when someone said “Good Morning” to me last Monday, and I answered, “At least the weekend is coming”. That is not like me. I’m always optimistic. I’m always ready for a new day. Well, not always anymore. Being a Special Educator seems to be draining me of all strength. Is there such a thing as a fourth-year slump?

I’ve let myself fall into the trap of a pressing schedule at school. I have a relentless round of meetings and paperwork. I’m feeling pressure from parents and advocates, students and administrators. Special Education brings worries about legal obligations and deadlines. Other teachers need help, and students are entitled to their full accommodations. I am always struggling to complete what has to be done NOW, so I’ve lost sight of the importance of my job. There’s been no “big picture” in my school life for the past month or so.

When I think a student is slumping, I ask them to think about things he enjoys, and something he is looking forward to. Have to study for a test? Just think, when it’s over, there’s no studying tomorrow night. I tell kids that if it seems they have a lot to do, stop for a moment and celebrate what is already done. Worried about a paper due? Remember how well you did on the paper in your other class. Good advice I’m applying to myself. Worried about that difficult meeting coming up? Remember how successful last week’s meeting was. Considering a solution to a child’s problem? Call upon the resources that have helped before.

Friday afternoon I worked on an IEP with another teacher. As we considered the needs of this young student, with all his problems, we went round and round about what the school could offer, and how. We worried about it. I realized that all we had to do was write a document addressing those needs and problems. I had to block worries of legal considerations and deadlines. I couldn’t wait any longer for the responses of the “experts” I had called in to help. I had to take care of this young man right now, to the best of my ability. The decision to trust our decisions gave me energy.

I think I’m finding my way out of my slump now. I feel creative again, and enthusiastic. The wicked spell of “sameness” is broken, and I feel spring coming already. I’m going to start this week reminding myself that everything on my “to do” list is important only if it affects the life of a student. Mindless paperwork can wait. I feel like I’m going to get a lot done this week, and some of it may be really important.

I’m doing my job if a student is more successful, less “slumpish” because of something I’ve done, some help I have offered. I’m less slumpish if I am useful, if I accomplish something to make a difference. Out of the slug slump and into the big picture.

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A previous version of this article had the title Slumpish.

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