Mathematical Motivation through the Holidays – For Teachers

Keeping math fresh and alive for your students during the holidays goes a long way in keeping both rigor and motivation high throughout the holiday season. In last week’s blog post, the mathematical motivation ideas I shared centered on ways to make holiday learning fun for your math students. However, keeping things fresh and alive for yourself also needs to be a priority during this busy and sometimes overwhelming time.

Whether you’re working in a classroom with students or as an administrator with teachers, this season brings with it all kinds of hectic activity.  I’ve received much advice about this over my thirty years in the teaching world. In addition to injecting a little holiday cheer into student assignments, I frequently take the advice of my colleagues to ensure I don’t burn the candle on both ends during this month. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Seek Out Positive Friends and Mentors: Hang out with people who love teaching and express positivity. Negativity brings everyone down, and sometimes it’s those who are closest to you who may not be good influences at the moment. Gravitate towards positive people when you’re feeling close to the “edge.”
  2. Plan Ahead: Take some uninterrupted time to get your lessons planned and prepped for the first week back after break – your time off will be so much more relaxing.
  3. Create Self-Deadlines: Set a timer to get tasks done – tasks such as grading papers, writing lesson plans, or reading a book. Far too often, we allow ourselves too much time for tasks and end up getting distracted. When I must tackle a task I’m not eager to do, I’ll set a timer for 60 minutes (or whatever seems appropriate) and commit to not letting myself get distracted till the time is up. You’d be amazed at how productive you can be with this kind of goal.
  4. Don’t be a Perfectionist: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Sometimes good enough truly is good enough. Let yourself off the hook.
  5. Simplify: Break large tasks into smaller, manageable tasks. You don’t have to complete the entire project to make headway.
  6. Say no: It’s easy to over-commit during the pre-holidays. Remind yourself that you’re teaching and self-caring at the same time. It’s okay to say no to extra things that others can do. And it’s okay if you don’t bake every plate of cookies from scratch or attend every holiday celebration to which you’re invited.
  7. Take Time to Think: Give yourself some uninterrupted alone time. This is a great time to meditate or to try out free writing. Pick up a pen and a piece of paper (or a journal) and just let your thoughts freely flow through your hand onto the page. You just may discover some new ideas you didn’t even know you had.
  8. Breathe: Schedule time just for yourself – put it on your calendar, turn off your cell phone, get away from the hustle and bustle, and do something you enjoy. Creating time for yourself may be just the thing that helps you stay centered.

If you’re needing more ideas for stress management for educators, check out this article on beating holiday stress or this infographic on self-care. Taking care of yourself this season will make a difference for your personal motivation, making you the best you can be on behalf of students.

Here’s to a fantastic month!

Kimberly Rimbey, Ph.D., works with teachers and leaders to develop system-wide change in mathematics teaching and learning.

Please share your thoughts on stress management for educators in the comments box below. Our collective wisdom will go a long way in supporting students.

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