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We’ve all been there. It is that time of year, after all. A winter break for many art teachers is almost here. We are feeling all the layers of our work compound. The classroom is a mess, students are acting like a pack of rabid squirrels, and every teacher you meet in the hallway has the same look of exhaustion flavored with desperation and a sprinkle of bitterness.
Thus comes to mind the classic character, Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A story about a successful, but lonely and bitter man. Scrooge responds to all Christmas cheer with a fierce, “BAH-HUMBUG!” Yet, after examining his own mortality through a series of ghostly visits, Scrooge finds himself embracing the goodness of the holiday season and changing his ways.
If you find your temper is shorter, your patience thinner, and the best and worst of us all coming to light, we can relate. This time of year, it seems like we all have a little inward or outward Scrooge we can’t seem to shake.
However, you, your students, your colleagues, your families, and your friends do not deserve a Scrooge to taint this time of year. Sure, you are in the “grind” of it all. A zillion things on your school to-do list, personal holiday celebrations to coordinate, and regular daily life all add up.
Are you always in a sassy, snarky mood after you run into so-and-so in the teacher workroom? Do they always have something negative to share? A simple comment about student behavior or frustration with administration can set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Or maybe you’re at your wits’ end after that noisy, disorganized class. Perhaps you roll your eyes after you see an email from that parent. All of these situations are tremendous stressors, and, when compounded, are bound to make you burst. By identifying the catalyst, you have the power to change your own feelings and reaction.
When it comes to a consistently negative colleague or parent, you don’t have ANY power to change how they express themselves or how they feel about ANYTHING. The good news is you have the power not to take the bait and be equally negative with them. Think about keeping a box of negative thoughts and interactions closed and a positive one open and overflowing like bursting confetti. You can share something positive or smile, move on, and keep the interaction as short and sweet as possible. Frankly, your main focus is your students’ creativity. Your concern is not how annoyed someone else is at a long a staff meeting, the music concert changing class schedules, or student behavior in the lunchroom.
Most challenging is not to engage in gossip with other colleagues about “so-and-so.” This perpetuates the problem and puts you in the middle of it all.
As for a tough class, you hold the reins. Hooray! Things do not always have to be chronically crazy in your classroom. Maybe you do not have the energy or the time to address the necessary changes to tame some of your students before a break. Never fear. Classroom management is a skill that is constantly evolving. Check out some more articles or a PRO Learning Pack on strategies and tips to try today or in the new year.
Only you are aware of all the things you do in your role as the art teacher. The number of decisions you make by lunchtime is in the hundreds. With this knowledge, be kind to yourself. Perhaps this is not the time of year to tackle a new, untested unit with every class. Streamline your projects and lessons to bring a little less chaos to your classroom. Don’t feel guilty if you do something viewed as “easy” by other educators. If your students are practicing their creativity in some way, you can take yourself off the hook. Try building in a review of classroom procedures to make that difficult class a bit more manageable in the new year.
By the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a changed man saying, “Merry Christmas!” to everyone in sight. This kind of transformation is obviously grandiose, but the idea of “seeing the light” is not. You will soon have an opportunity for a much deserved and necessary pause from your colleagues, students, and classroom. Hang in there. You’ve got this. In the meantime, focus on the positive. Laugh at the little goofy things that happen. Then, during a break, take time for your own creative self to rejuvenate and return to school with a fresh perspective. For some specific ideas, check out the Curbing Art Teacher Burnout PRO Learning Pack.
We’ve all made acquaintance with the occasional workplace frustration. The above commentary addresses the common annoyances art educators might encounter in the middle of the school year. It is, by no means, advice for chronic bitterness and resentment that last for more than a season. Such feelings need more support than one article can provide. No one, not even Scrooge, deserves to feel this way all the time. Please seek out resources for professional help if you find you are not able to turn the corner after this holiday season.
Do you find yourself being a Scrooge this time of year?
How do you deal with outward or inward negativity at school? What time of the school year is the most difficult to stay positive?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.