We have all been there! Sometimes you’re swamped with work, with personal problems and you just can’t function. As a teacher, as a person, you just go through a very non-creative phase and you actually don’t know what to do. That’s how I have been feeling lately and in an attempt to get “unstuck” I have asked Chuck and Barbara to suggest a subject for me to write on and maybe I could get over what I am feeling right now. So Barbara said: “Why don’t you write something about this? How to get unstuck!” I found this a wonderful idea and started doing a bit of research on the Internet. There is plenty of material with lots of advice. The thing is…does it actually help you to move on? So here is me experimenting…
Maybe if you are in an unfamiliar place, your mind starts working differently. Acting like a tourist even in your own hometown helps you find out more things about the place you are in. You take photos, you meet people, you ask for new information,and you clear your head. Maybe you don’t get new ideas immediately, but it does help to just relax and not think about work and problems.
2. Accept yourself
A little self-reflection does not hurt. Look back at your actions. What happened in class today, this week? Did I achieve the goals I had in mind? What was the best moment of the week? Did I live up to my expectations? I must have done something right. And how about my failures? Why didn’t I achieve my goal? Why did the students not understand the grammar I have been teaching? And why did my student do poorly on the test? Was it my fault or didn’t he study?
All in all…count on yourself. Maybe everything is not in order, but we are getting there….
3. Change something
Is there anything you don’t like about yourself? About your teaching? Why don’t you just change it? You can do something irrelevant to your work. Dye your hair or get a haircut. Something that will make you feel good and confident. Change a teaching approach, or a book, or flip an exercise. Did it work? Did you feel better? Reflect on that!
A different book maybe? What do you usually do in class? If you only have to use a course book, why don’t you watch a video or listen to a song? Or read a book in the last 10 minutes of your class? Do the students like it? What are the benefits of trying a new thing? Did it not work? At least you know!!!
5. Talk with somebody
Two heads are better than one. And we do feel better if we communicate with other people. Arrange to meet a friend or colleague for coffee or if it is not possible, you can Skype or chat in your comfort of your home! Find out what they have been doing and share your ideas. Don’t be competitive, it is not a competition. We all try to do our best in our work.
6. Stay away from negative people and situations
As I mentioned before, it is not a competition. Constructive criticism is good, but there are always people who try to make you feel inferior. Believe me you are better than they think!!
7. Do something that makes you uncomfortable
Are you afraid of talking in front of an audience? Are you afraid to write an article? Do it!! Do something that scares you every week!! Get out of your comfort zone! It will be difficult, I know, but when you are done with it, you will feel so good about yourself. You will feel so strong, you will be able to do everything you have in mind after that!
Not only lists with your everyday tasks. Make Goal-diaries. What have you always wanted to do? Collaborate with a school abroad in a project? Use a new teaching method? Go to a convention abroad? Write it down! One day you will make it! And you will feel proud!
9. Dig out old projects
What were doing, let’s say 5 years ago? Were you working on a project back then? Why don’t you try it with your new students, with some adjustments? What went well back then? What went wrong? Can you do it better this time?
10. Do things that please you.
Devote some time to yourself. You don’t always have to be a teacher. Stay home and read a good book, or watch a movie, or go out running, or cook something. Whatever you like. We cannot be teachers the whole time. We have to unwind.
I don’t really know if all this can help us create new ideas. I am still experimenting. I’d love to hear what you think!!!
Theodora Papapanagiotou is a teacher of EFL and DaF (German as a foreign language) in Greece since 1992. She has worked in various language schools in her hometown, Thessaloniki and with various levels and ages. In the past few years she has been working as a freelance teacher and taking parts in conventions, webinars and online courses, trying to become a better teacher.