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In recent years, I’ve tried to stop counting down to anything, actually: days until a family vacation, days until a holiday, days until a special event. Though some people find it motivating to know how many days they have left, the countdown mentality just hasn’t served me well, especially when I’m anxious for summer break. Here’s why:

summer break countdown

1. Counting days turned the end of the school year into a “sentence” in which I was just biding my time.

Instead of getting up each day with the intention of fulfilling my calling, making a difference for kids, and actually enjoying something I had committed to spending 40+ hours a week doing, I was just going through the motions and waiting for time to pass.

2. Counting days drained my sense of purpose, which made the school year feel even longer.

Because I was overly focused on the countdown, time seemed to pass even more slowly. I wasn’t focused on helping my students learn anymore, and without that sense of purpose and corresponding accomplishment to motivate me, it felt like I spent all my time on tedious paperwork and assessment tasks. I also had more behavioral problems to deal with, since the kids picked up on my vibe and they, too, assumed no more learning was going to take place. No wonder it seemed like the year was never going to end!

3. Counting days tricked me into believing the time I had left with the kids was insignificant.

Eh, there’s only 24 days of school left, why bother trying something new and innovative with the kids? What’s the point of helping a student understand something I’ve already explained a hundred times—he hasn’t gotten it in the last 156 days, why would he get it now? If I’d dug a little deeper, I would have recalled the times I’d seen huge learning gains or socio-emotional breakthroughs in the course of a single lesson. But instead, I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything worthwhile in the dozens of hours I had left with my students. I let exhaustion shake my belief in my effectiveness as a teacher and my students’ ability to learn and simply gave up.

 4. Counting days caused me to miss some of the best opportunities to enjoy my kids.

The end of the school year can actually be a really special chance to connect with students since testing is done and some of the pressure is lessened. I always had a few fun activities planned, but often had a hard time being present with my students because I was so focused on the number of days I had left to get administrative things done. I was mentally checked out and so I missed out on making some awesome memories with my students.

 5. Counting days is based on the presumption that today cannot be as good as the future will be.

Because I “couldn’t wait” until the last day of school, I wasn’t focused on what I could have been enjoying or experiencing on the current day. And yet the truth is this: all we have is the present moment. The day we’re hoping for may not arrive, or we might find that our life circumstances are tremendously different when it does, and the carefree fun times we had envisioned never come to pass.  Who can afford to waste the time we have right now by wishing for an unpromised tomorrow? Every single day is a chance to do something meaningful and looks for ways to enjoy doing it.

What are your thoughts–does counting down until the last day of school give you more energy or drain it away? What do you do to stay motivated at this time of year?

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Alternatives to classroom teaching: 15 other rewarding jobs in education

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You love to teach and you love making a difference for kids. You can’t imagine working in any other field but education. But what happens when you start to feel burned out by the profession or want a different challenge? What other meaningful careers exist in education besides classroom teaching? I’ve created this list of […]

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Dear students: you are so much more than a test score

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The following true story made the rounds in social media this fall, but I wanted to share it with you now in the spring as so many of us suffer through “testing season” and anxiously await the return of standardized test scores. An elementary school principal sent this message to all her students during the week […]

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One of my first teaching experiences, over a decade ago, was in a HeadStart program located in a dense urban area. I loved working with my students’  families and became pretty friendly with a parent who would often confide in me about personal and financial issues. She told me how she had trouble paying her […]

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classroom management ideas

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awakened

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Why using a camera to take notes is smart, not lazy

21st century schools

What’s your first impression of this image? When I shared it on Facebook recently, some pretty passionate responses were sparked. A number of teachers thought that students taking notes with phone and tablet cameras was a useful strategy, but they were far outnumbered by dissenters. Some commenters viewed it as evidence of bad teaching, kids’ […]

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How to deal with co-workers who constantly complain

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You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

awakened

Do you have a tendency to make gigantic to-do lists for every new school year? Do you promise yourself each fall that this year will be different, and expect yourself to suddenly become organized and top of all the tasks you’re given? If so, you’re not alone. August and September can be such overwhelming months for […]

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I recently received not just one, but two emails from teachers informing me that my classroom “wasn’t cute” in the pictures I’ve shared on this site. Commentary on cuteness (or lack thereof) is something that seems to be happening more and more frequently in education-related discussions. And what’s really interesting is that in many cases, […]

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Q & A: job search & interview tips for teachers

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A few years ago, I wrote a page on this site called Job Interview Tips for Teachers, and it’s proven to be so popular (it was pinned on Pinterest over 75,000 times–sheesh!) that I kept updating it every summer. On that page, you’ll find info on what to wear to a teaching interview, interviewing tips, […]

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Unreasonable expectations and CCSS assessments

21st century schools

So last month I ranted a little bit about product placement on the new standardized tests in New York (as in, the brand names of cartoons and sneakers and soda being embedded in reading passages.)  Now that “testing season” is officially over in most schools, I’m really eager to hear from more educators who have […]

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Product placement on standardized tests: a new low?

ed news and trends

Four years ago, I had an experience where I believed that there were advertisements on my students’ standardized tests. (Please, read that story. It’s one of my favorites.) That nightmare actually came true this week. Yes, my friends. The new standardized tests in New York feature plugs for commercial products. Supposedly, none of the companies paid […]

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Should principals honor parent requests for teachers?

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This is another one of those highly divisive issues that seem to plague large schools all across the country, yet I don’t see a lot of conversations about it online. Anytime there are multiple classes per grade level or subject area, teacher reputations spread throughout the community and parents (as well as students) begin to […]

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12 “myths” about education in Finland debunked

ed news and trends

The success of public schooling in Finland has been a huge topic of discussion in the education community over the past year. I’ve read a few good articles about it, including Why Are Finland’s Schools So Successful?, and was impressed with what I learned. So when the image to the left started circulating on social media, […]

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Teacher job satisfaction hits lowest point in 25 years

21st century schools

That’s according to the 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, an always fascinating analysis of teacher and principal perceptions of their work. The fact that teachers are increasingly less satisfied with their jobs is probably not surprising to you, but MetLife found that teachers’ satisfaction levels have dropped 23% since 2008, and that, to […]

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Should the toughest kids be assigned to the best teachers?

behavior management

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3 ways you can help schools after Superstorm Sandy

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I can’t imagine losing all the teaching materials I’ve bought over the years. But that’s what happened to many educators in the NYC area after Superstorm Sandy ripped through. Far too many teachers in New York and New Jersey found out last week that the roof over their classroom had partially collapsed or that six […]

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The data doesn’t “prove” that technology increases student learning. So what?

21st century schools

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