October can be a tough month when you’re a teacher. Outside, the days are getting shorter. You feel the back-to-school momentum fading, and there’s still a ways to go before the holidays. You’re in the trenches, enjoying getting to know your students on a deeper level, but also facing challenges that have revealed themselves over the last month or two. You’re evaluating the effectiveness (and, let’s face it, occasional ineffectiveness) of some of your established routines and procedures. For all these reasons and more, October has earned this (almost) affectionate nickname among teachers: “Darktober.” But there’s a bright side to being a teacher during Darktober: You know that thousands of educators across the country are feeling the same way you are — and that millions of teachers throughout history have tackled it with aplomb.This year, we’ve asked the community of teachers who use our site (and the former teachers on our staff, like yours truly) how they conquer the Darktober blues. Turns out, there are loads of ways to care for yourself and your classroom this fall.
Find a moment for self-care
We teachers are notorious for working incredibly hard and giving much of our time to others. But if you want your classroom to be an amazing place for your students, you have to take care of your most important resource: YOU! If you find yourself struggling to make time for yourself, here are a few ideas to squeeze a little “me-time” into your life… all in 20 minutes or less.
- Go for a run or walk your dog
- Light your favorite scented candle and read your favorite magazine
- Sit on your front porch or stoop, without the distraction of a device
- Take a quick nap
- Cook a meal you love
Of course there are infinite ways to unwind, from gardening to tidying to watching an episode of your favorite show. (For me it‘s taking my dog Lucy on hikes and getting my hands on a new book.) When you engage in a favorite activity for even a few minutes, it can really lift your mood.
Make your classroom yours (even more than it already is)
Whether you’ve a painstakingly arranged your classroom or you don’t have a permanent room at school, you can personalize your space and your routines. Here’s a few ideas, big and small, to make your work day run more smoothly.
- Create a small classroom survival kit for yourself, featuring everything you might need. (Some ideas: Chapstick. Mints. Emergency deodorant. Safety pins.)
- Refresh classroom supplies that have already run out. (Anyone else love new dry erase markers?)
- Think through your day and identify a time of stress. Are there routines that aren’t working? Pick one and adjust it this week.
- Give yourself some credit: At the end of each workday, no matter how challenging it was, find one thing that went well. Then give yourself a mental high-five.
Use your colleagues
When you’re a teacher you’re never alone, but sometimes it can sure feel like you are. Here’s three key ideas for connecting with your colleagues when you’re feeling down or stuck.
- Practice gratitude: See a teammate doing something awesome or refining a skill that’s a challenge? Take a moment to let them know you noticed.
- Ask for help: It can be really hard to reach out if your struggling, but sometimes a helping hand can make all the difference. Ask a colleague you trust for a hand the next time you need one. (The DonorsChoose.org Teacher Facebook Community is also a great resource.)
- Stop in: Ask a colleague that inspires you if you can visit their classroom to observe, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. I’ve nabbed some of my best teacher tools from the teachers down the hall.
Get started now
Ready to get started but don’t know where to begin? Here are three ideas you can do right this moment. The best part: They only take 5 minutes and require no planning whatsoever.
- Put on your favorite song
- Make a cup of tea
- Download an inspiring background for your phone or computer. (Check out these customized backgrounds we created exclusively for DonorsChoose.org teachers.) It'll give you a boost when going about your day.
We’d like to hear from you. Which of these ideas resonated with you? Do you have your own way of “celebrating” Darktober? Tell our team and your fellow teachers in comments!