October can be a challenging month emotionally and motivationally. Some call it “slump month.” Summer seems like long ago. The end of the first grading period quickly advances. Parent-teacher conferences approach. The seasons are changing. Turning leaves, while beautiful, signal the coming of winter. Meanwhile, sunlight hours dwindle, the end of daylight savings time is eminent, and Thanksgiving break is weeks away.
The combination of these factors and others can leave you feeling tired, lethargic, and out of balance, causing our energy and enthusiasm to ebb. New initiatives and skills you committed to learn and practice can remain challenging. You may be experiencing what’s called the Implementation Dip—a time after learning something new but before feeling competent and comfortable with your new skills and practices.
The good news is that you don’t have to give in to the October funk. You can take control, shift your perspective, and take advantage of the opportunity to re-energize. Here are ten actions to counter the forces of October and take charge of your mood.
Celebrate the success of getting started. Most anxiety from the opening weeks of school typically is behind you. The routines you planned are in place, and you’re familiar with your students. Their year-long learning journey is underway. Now is a suitable time to reflect and celebrate the progress made in the opening weeks of the year.
Pause to assess what is going well, what needs adjusting, and what needs eliminating. It may be time to withdraw helpful scaffolding you provided to students to frame and focus their learning. Perchance it’s time to seek feedback from your students about how the year is going, solicit their ideas, and add diverse practices and procedures in response.
Consider scheduling exams and major assignment submissions for early in the week. Having a few days to finish grading tasks before the weekend frees up time to relax and push school responsibilities into the background.
Keep negative feedback and criticism in perspective. Negative comments and critical advice don’t define you. They represent information you can evaluate, and you can assess the worthiness and usability of what you hear. If it doesn’t fit, let it go and forget it.
Decide a time to finish your day and leave. Time constraints often help you prioritize and manage your time. They also force you to decide what must be done now and what can wait until tomorrow. Having accomplished the crucial tasks, you can better enjoy the evening.
Find time for yourself. The frenzy of starting a new year can leave you so focused on caring for others that you neglect your own needs. Perhaps reestablish sleep patterns and adjust your diet. Additionally, carve out undesignated, personal time to do nothing or do something fun.
Capture the change from daylight savings time. Perhaps start an exercise routine. Set aside time for reading or another activity in which you’ve wanted to engage but have not had the time. Use this as an opportunity to move an end-of-the-day activity to the morning when you have more energy and fewer competing activities.
Schedule time with colleagues and friends. Meeting for dinner, planning a hike, visiting the zoo, or going to the theatre provide good options. However, the time might be most refreshing if you make a “no school talk” agreement during your downtime.
Commit to making someone’s day. Share your appreciation for someone in your life. A face-to-face conversation is best. The next best thing—a written a note of gratitude. You might offer to help a colleague with a project. This also is a suitable time to encourage a student, by pointing out their strengths and noting what they do well.
Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is natural. It is common for educators to experience an “October Funk.” You can also remind yourself that this phase is temporary. You’ll soon find yourself feeling re-energized as the year unfolds, seeing progress, and looking forward to what lies ahead. With some patience, self-care, and perspective adjustment you’ll find your motivation and momentum returning and moving you forward.