Winter Blues

You have probably heard it before. A colleague walks around, coffee cup in hand, and says something like, “Only ninety-three more school days to go.” Sometimes it is said in jest; other times, it is said with exasperation. I have laughed it off, ignored it, or maybe even made believe I did not hear it; unfortunately, this attitude is self-defeating and sets up teachers and students for a climate of negativity.

All educators have good and bad days, just like people in any other profession. Unlike office workers or account executives, teachers and school administrators are really not able to let it be known they are having bad days. If they gripe to one another, it feeds into a monster that doth mock the meat it feeds upon. If their superiors hear about, it could cause problems in the present or in terms of future teaching assignments. Worst of all, if students even get a hint of the teacher’s sarcasm or angst or despair, they will spread the word and a good deal of mischief will follow.

In the days after the holiday season, it is easy for everyone to feel a little depressed. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a serious condition experienced by people who otherwise have normal mental stability. This is a real condition and, according to the Mayo Clinic, it needs to be dealt with. “Treatment for seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. Addressing the problem can help you keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.”

Of course, some teachers come back from the holidays and see the daunting six months ahead of them and get down. The days are short and most of us get up in darkness and return home in darkness. In many parts of the country, the weather is cold and snowy and an austere feeling descends over people. We stay indoors, we huddle under blankets, and we come to understand why bears hibernate.

Teachers cannot allow themselves to fall into this trap. They need to find a way to get some help if they need it because this kind of feeling certainly can be affecting their students as well. Educators cannot feed into the doom and gloom but must find a way to forge ahead, looking at the big picture instead of the little things that can get us down.

When I was a new teacher, I learned from a veteran that I had to come back in January and be more on my game than ever before. There were big things at stake then like EOC exams. The teacher always sets the tone in the classroom; the principal and assistant principals do so for the entire building. The attitude should be business as usual and let’s get to business right away.

At this point in the year, as we turn the first page of the 2019 calendar and walk slowly into February, we have basically come to the halfway point of the school year. Five months have passed, and there are five months to go. Instead of wallowing in a day counting mode that only makes the time go more slowly, why not revel in the season and use it to your advantage?

As educators, each day is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference. We can never take for granted the truly sacred torch that has been passed to us, and we should never do anything personally to douse that flame of learning in our classrooms. We must be passionate about teaching and excited about bringing knowledge to our students, whether it’s a dark, cold winter’s day or a bright sunny one in spring.

If you do have some sort of seasonal depression, find ways to get help with it. There are many resources available. As you do things to alleviate your feelings of despair, try to do everything possible not to let your anxiety become apparent in the classroom. Think back to why you first entered the teaching profession. You most probably did it with extremely noble intentions.

Get back in touch with that vibrancy that filled your heart with joy on the first day of your teaching career, when you walked into your classroom and felt like you could take on the world. Remember that in essence the world is in the hands of educators, for we touch the lives of our students not for just a moment but for the rest of their lives. Every word we say counts; every gesture is observed and measured; every outburst is never forgotten, as is every kindness.

Teaching should not be an easy job. In fact, it should be the most strenuous work around. When I was first teaching, I used to go home and feel exhausted because I put so much into my lessons and classes. The good teacher knows that no dust settles on his or her feet; there is no time for rest during the day because every second, yes every second counts.

When you are well prepared and have lesson plans that cover every minute of class and ten to fifteen extra minutes just in case, your students will always be engaged and have no time to feel depressed. They will look up from their work and see your vibrancy, your love of the subject matter, and that is infectious. If you are moping around with a cup of coffee and whining about the cold, the snow, and the commute to work, students will take your lead and learning will be affected.

I hope that you go into work each day and never fall into counting the days, but instead remember that what you are doing counts. It matters today and every day for the rest of your students’ lives. If that is not enough to brighten your day, I don’t know what is.

-Victor Lana