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Sunday / December 16

5 Strategies to Combat the Blahs and the Acks 

Some days I am certain… no, that’s not accurate… some days I am downright self-righteous that I know what works for kids. Obviously, I’d have to be generously self-righteous to write these posts. My self-righteousness gets me into trouble, creating blind spots and closing myself off to new possibilities, but that is a post for another day. Tonight, I am writing about the blahs and the acks.  

The blahs. The “no-matter-what-I-do-I’m-not-teaching-this-well”s. The “there is no end in sight to this conflict I keep having with this student”s. The “it’s 7-o’clock and I still have a mountain of paperwork to climb and I will still have to get here early tomorrow and I’ve forgotten what my house looks like”s. 

The acks. The “I have explained this concept 14 different ways 14 different times and the kids aren’t paying attention and it has all been for naught”s. The “I just received a nasty email from a grandmother who thinks my homework assignments are too easy”s. The “my principal decided that today would be the day for my informal observation on the one day that I forgot to check the websites before I assigned them”s. The “I had finally struck a reasonable balance with behavior and I just received an email that I’m getting a new student tomorrow”s.  

The blahs and the acks. I am in my 15th year of teaching and this week I am deep underneath the blahs and the acks. I have spread myself very thin professionally and personally and I am overwhelmed with my own mediocrity. It would really help if I could just take a week, tick some items off of my to-do list, and re-center my energy to be a stronger teacher again. But this is teaching, public school teaching in the U.S. more specifically, and our emotional and mental wellness are not exactly a top priority in practice.  

So what do I do? How do I get myself up tomorrow, shake off the blahs and the acks, and use my talents effectively? 

1. Sleep.  

Get enough sleep. Sleep. Start small if that’s tough. Consider how many hours of sleep I’ve been getting and increase it by just 15 minutes. Incrementally, work up to an extra hour.  

2. Eat real food.  

Real food that comes out of the ground. Food that is filled with sunshine and will sustain me throughout the day. 

3. Take one day to only do the things in my classroom that feel right to do.  

Take a break from the regularly scheduled programming and create joyful, enriching experiences. For me, I enjoy when the kids have time to read in silence while I can walk around and conference with students without pushing a formal assessment on them. I enjoy recess. I enjoy eating lunch by myself. I enjoy listening to Bob Marley in the morning as the kids eat their breakfast. I enjoy days where the kids don’t touch their devices at all. I enjoy reading to my kids. I enjoy playing games with the kids. I enjoy coloring activities and mindful breathing breaks. Tomorrow, to shake off the blahs and the acks, I can pause our other work and have a positively pleasant day. Then, even if a blah or ack moment should arise, my heart is filled with joy and I am better equipped to make a smart decision rather than a rash reaction. 

 4. Make a list of all the talents I have without apologizing to myself for being immodest.  

Literally, write it down. Nothing is too insignificant. I am talented at using funny voices when I read to my students. Write it down. I am talented at wearing earrings that thematically support our work. Write it down. I am talented at noticing when a specific student is about to lose her temper. Write it down. I am talented at fixing the jam in the copier. Write it down. Go through a typical day in your head and write down every little thing that you are not only capable of doing but you do rather well.  

5. Have perspective.  

We are all important but none of us is so important that a few days of blah and ack are really going to ruin the world. Apologize tomorrow to anyone who deserves an apology, like a student who may have received the wrath of my shortened fuse, and his caregivers. Then remember this mantra, I do enough. I am enough. I am happy to serve. I accept myself. I love myself. 

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Cara Jeanne is a veteran teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. She teaches 5th grade Language Arts and Social Studies at the same elementary school she attended as a child. She is pursuing her phD in Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she also received her Masters degree and a certificate in Equity and Cultural Proficiency. Cara completed her undergraduate work at St. Mary’s College of Maryland where she studied Psychology and English. Cara was a finalist for Baltimore County Teacher of the Year and is honored to serve on the Equity Team and Faculty Council at her school.

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