The weeks after midterms are a depressing time of the year for teachers in the United States. Some teachers even have a name for it: DEVOLSON: Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.
The beginning of the semester seems like a lifetime ago. The freshness and excitement of August and September have worn off a long time ago. Students are becoming more tired and apathetic. Winter is right around the corner and yet the end of the semester is nowhere in sight.
The time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving break is the longest stretch without a break in most schools’ calendars. It truly is a test of endurance. As the days drag on, sometimes you just want to curl up and shut the world out for a few days. Of course, for teachers, that’s not an option. We have to be leaders and drag students, sometimes kicking, sometimes screaming, through the remaining classes of the semester.
Teachers can do a few things to help them make it through and come out on the other end less frazzled, if not all rosy. Here’s how I get through these most difficult months.
My first teaching job was stressful. I was working in South Korea as the native speaker English teacher at a middle school. About a day before classes started, I asked one of my Korean co-teachers,
So, um…What should I teach?
At that point, I had never had any substantial teacher training and I hadn’t even been given a textbook to work from. Needless to say, I was looking for a little guidance.
It doesn’t matter. Teach whatever you want. We just want you to try hard.
The next few months were a little difficult.
And when I say “a little difficult,” I mean agonizing. I spent several school nights staying up until two or three in the morning combing the internet for standalone lessons that would work with classes of 30-35 middle school students of varied proficiency. I’ve been teaching for several years since then and I think I’d still find that situation challenging.
At the time, I was desperately in need of some structure and order to ease my cognitive load. The solution would have been to create a syllabus. But that’s easier said than done, especially for a novice teacher without any guidance. I wouldn’t have known where to start.
Since that period of chaos, I’ve created different syllabi for the various teaching situations I’ve found myself in. In this post, I’ll talk about a few of those situations and how to create an appropriate syllabus for each of them.