Teaching

What’s the Toughest Time of Year to Teach? We Asked Educators

By Hayley Hardison — October 18, 2022 4 min read
A silhouette or trees showing the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter with a dial in the center and a woman pushing back the arrow in the middle of the dial.
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In recent coverage, Education Week reporter Madeline Will wrote about how teachers can curb the “October Blues,” a term coined to describe an often-challenging month in the school year. For some educators, the excitement of the new year has worn off and the difficult realities of teaching set in by the time “spooky season” rolls around.

Some educators responding to the article on Facebook said that the teaching challenges faced during the month of October don’t hold a candle to those in other months. We wanted to learn more.

Using a LinkedIn poll, we asked teachers to weigh in on the hardest season for teaching, and over 2,400 of our followers participated in the poll. The top season selected? Spring, which accounted for 40 percent of the poll’s votes.

(Our poll is based on a convenience sample, not a nationally representative one, so the results aren’t definitive.)

Across other social media posts, we asked teachers to name the most challenging month of the school year for teaching. Here’s what they said—and why they said it.

Fall (September, October, November)

“September. All new students, curriculum planning, meetings, setting up units, updating resources and more… That’s just my work now I have to go home and be a parents of a student.”

@mary_mcew

“October is usually the hardest. Students are finally getting routines but can tend to revert back to previous behaviors. Plus it just feels long.”

@AndrewVillaEDU

“October is TOUGH! It’s hard to maintain routines in school and for our own wellbeing outside of school. There’s always more to do and students get restless which makes us restless. Is the ‘Fall Wall’ over yet?”

@jaredbfries

“I think October is the toughest. The honeymoon is over and students start to test their boundaries. It is certainly the time that tests classroom management and there are no days off.”

@MrMcCarthySS

“October. There are extra (unpaid) duties that require after hours work like homecoming, senior night, parent-teacher conferences, bonfires, etc. also, beginning of the year good behavior honeymoon comes crashing to an end.”

@thekemsmith

“November. The honeymoon is over, you’ve identified who needs extra behavior or academics support, but you’re still trying things out to see what works. You’ve usually gone without a day off since Labor Day. It’s dark, but without the holiday cheer of December. And to top it off, I always get sick.”

Bethany Heath

“Fall was the most difficult for a retired kindergarten teacher. A lot of kids had separation anxiety. Trying to establish new routines wasn’t easy. Some students were not completely potty trained. Discovering food allergies that parents were not aware of was tough. Understanding students learning styles took time. But, I would not have traded this profession for any other. The successes outweighed anything else.”

Zena McCain

Winter (December, January, February)

“December. So much going on and kids are excited about the holidays.”

Linda Campbell

“January. No breaks in sight. It’s cold. Weather interruptions. Kids hyped from Christmas. The honeymoon phase is over and the year still has a long way to go.”

@W_A_T_H

“February. Cabin fever is at a high, everyone has had too much together time, winter break is far behind you, and spring break is nowhere insight.”

@paigereads341

“February. I don’t know what it is about February, but it’s always rough. I save a personal day for when I just can’t with February.”

@JWreckChem

“February. Long winters in ND so we see [seasonal affective disorder] in kids and adults. Everyone gets antsy from being cooped up and behaviors tend to rise. Very few school breaks between January and March.”

@jennikramer1231

“[W]inter because kids cannot go outside as often to burn off energy, it is dark and seasonal depression hits people, everyone is sleepier, a lot of melt downs from putting on and taking off snow pants and snow boots, and kids forget how to behave at school during the winter holidays. The winter months are a slog in the midwest.”

Jacqueline Otting

“I used to think spring, but winter brings on a lot of seasonal depression in students and every week you’re begging for a snow day...which is beautiful until you realize trying to get caught up on content missed and keeping your sections on track is a nightmare. Fall definitely brings the best buzz all around, and there’s hope in spring.”

Jeni Daley

Spring (March, April, May)

“March. No days off, the possibility of snow days severely decreases, and we’re all so ready for spring break.”

@JillCox_Teacher

“In RI. March. No breaks. No holidays. April vacation is so far away. Senioritis. Halfway through 3rd quarter. Still cold and snowy.”

@MsTracyMiller

“March is trash. No breaks. Everyone is exhausted. Rushing to get through content before state testing. Admin is rushing to finish evaluations. Pink slips go out. It’s all garbage.”

@teachcrap

“April. Because once that state test is over, the kids think the year is over.”

@BlkLadyOfWonder

“April. No time off, final scramble before state exams, teachers are just as exhausted as the kids… April is miserable!”

Krista M. Rowland

“May definitely May. Everyone is tired. Weather is nice. Kids are anticipating the end.”

@dave_brandvold

“Spring is when I highly feel stressed about running out of time to teach my students all I need to for the year. It is also the peak season for interruptions (i.e. spring holidays, state testing, transition IEPs, etc.). 🤦🏻‍♀️🙇🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️”

Ivy Lazaro

“Everybody who teaches on the east coast knows, it’s Spring. Simply because the kids, staff and instructional staff are all running on fumes at that point; the weather starts to warm up and we all want to sit on a warm beach, holding a cold drink and get outSIDE!”

Andrea King

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