It’s early April and I’m already completely out of motivation. That’s like discovering you’re out of gas in the middle of Utah on your cross-country road trip. But you don’t have any money because you spent it all on crab meat in Baltimore, where you started, and you don’t have your cell phone because you lost it at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Missouri (you think you set it down while paying homage to Pa’s fiddle), so you have to walk the rest of the way, and you can’t hitchhike because it’s dangerous. And you’re not anywhere close to Las Vegas, so don’t even think about it. Also, you’re not even in the pretty part of Utah.
I’m done with that comparison now.
Luckily for me, I have found ways of dealing with being stuck in this proverbial teaching desert by becoming really, really good at distracting myself. And luckily for you, I’m sharing them!
1) Tiny desk calendar
Every year I make a tiny desk calendar. It’s exactly what you think it is—a very small calendar that goes on my desk. There’s just something about being able to fit the rest of the semester on 1.5 index cards is very satisfying and hopeful-feeling. (Fun fact—Tiny Desk Calendar also comes in handy as a reference for planning since it takes about 8 fewer steps than opening up your Outlook calendar.*)
2) Redecorate your refrigerator
I’m not wealthy enough to redecorate my apartment, but I AM wealthy enough to redecorate my refrigerator. I already had Scrabble tile magnets (you can get them here), and the big pictures I ripped out of an Anthropologie catalogue instead of buying the products in them. Considering the number of times you go to the refrigerator every day, it’s nice to have something aesthetic to look at. (The poem is from this one by e.e. cummings and it’s lovely.)
Also I arranged these things on my refrigerator for over an hour instead of grading. Amen.
Also those are fake flowers. Who do you think I am, someone who can keep a thing alive?
3) Have your students write thank-you notes one day
This never fails to put me in an awesome mood. Take a few minutes to have your students write (and maybe even decorate?) thank-you notes for someone at school or home who needs to be shown some gratitude. I have my students do this a few times a year—once for people who donate classroom materials, once for people at school who do a lot of “behind the scenes” stuff without much recognition (cleaning staff, cafeteria staff, clerks, etc.), and once for people in their families or communities. Even if you don’t teach language arts/writing, this activity definitely has literacy value you should be able to justify for any content area.
The practice of gratitude/creativity puts students in an awesome mood, and watching your students be gracious puts you in an awesome mood. Win/win!
4) Listen to a free book on tape during your commute.
Audible.com is basically like iTunes except for audiobooks. If you register with them, you get a free audiobook to listen to. After you listen to the free one, you can cancel your subscription OR keep the subscription and download a new audiobook every month, which is what I do. It’s an awesome way to make yourself feel like you are actually a normal human that has time to read books.
I am not a spokesperson for Audible.com, and if I were they would fire me for encouraging people to cancel their subscription after one free book.
5) Surround yourself with inspiration!
For example, my favorite coffee mug, which you can buy here:
A banner my friend’s mom made for her that I’m jealous of all the time:
|Random doodles to protect the innocent/adorable.|
And these literary quote tattoos that are begging for you to buy them:
6) Look at pictures of baby animals or vacations.
Sometimes when I catch myself in a nasty mood before one of my classes, I spend a minute or two scrolling through my Pinterest boards of baby animals or vacations.
It always does the trick, except for when it doesn’t. But most of the time it does.
7) Put your head under your document camera, look up at it, and freeze it so that your face is on the screen.
Just trust me on this one. HILARIOUS. Also free.
Don’t worry. I may be in the desert, but I see a beautiful, crystal clear pool up ahead with palm trees and a margarita machine.**
*1) Log in
2) Open Outlook
3) Click on calendar tab
4) Scroll to find date
OKAY, ONLY FOUR BUT STILL ANNOYING and not pretty.
**May very well be a mirage.