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Avoiding the October Dip: Beating Burnout Before it Begins

October is a notorious month in education for being sluggish, dreary, and even discouraging. The newness of the school year has worn off, first quarter grades or progress reports have been turned in (depending when your school year started), and it is still a long way off to Winter break. All of us, whether we are Educators, Students, or Parents feel the struggle.

After the past few years, having a typical October can hit harder than usual.

Instead, why not avoid the October dip all together and beat burnout before it begins?

Some perspective. Depending on who you are you may not understand what the dip for others is like:

  • Educators are buried in grading, meetings, lesson plan reworking, parent conferences and trying to keep their students engaged. There has been little precious time for self-care; nutrition, exercise, and sleep have been eradicated from their schedules and, if they are parents, their own children are experiencing the down turn (see below),

  • Students are overwhelmed with paper and project due dates, unit tests, and organization and time management deficiencies have caused lower-than-expected grades, not to mention the added stress of trying to fit in and make friends, do well in extracurricular activities, and balance it all well.

  • Parents are trying to manage their children’s anxiety over failing in class and fitting in, motivate them to complete the school work well, and have been run ragged driving all over town (and beyond) for extra-curricular activities. They are trying to catch their breath before the craziness of the holiday season begins and are trying to keep everything their kids need straight, which is an increasingly fruitless fight.

We all can get caught up in the busyness of the start of another school year, building schedules and routines that are absolutely full to overflowing. What we all seem to forget in our race to get everything done however, is the need for relaxation, rejuvenation, and rest. Without these things we become disgruntled, discouraged and depressed, and we know this, but for some reason we believe we just have to push through, saving that need for the next break. Only by then that break is not long enough and burnout begins to creep in.

How do we keep moving forward and still make time for the relaxation, rejuvenation, and rest we need?

I am so glad you asked!

The first thing we can do is incorporate a little fun into every day. This can be as simple as creating a smiley face waffle for breakfast, sharing a joke with each class, or making time to be with friends.

  • Consider incorporating National Days into your daily warm-ups, car rides, or even as a companion activity. National Today has a complete list of holidays and celebrations and National Day Calendar has a daily list of National Day of... topics

  • Consider becoming a “Secret Fun Officer”, offering little surprises to lift up your fellow coworkers, peers, and parents without them knowing who you are. I have done this as a class activity and the kids absolutely love it. We use bell work and brain break time to create general notes of encouragement for teachers and students and then the kids slip them into teacher boxes and under doors, put them up in bathroom stalls and in the hallways, and even try to slip them into backpacks and notebooks. The same thing can be done by teachers for students and even parents.

  • Play games. Kids love “Would You Rather” discussions as well as more active classroom games like 4 Corners. The Resilient Educator has a list of their top four classroom activities to get students moving (and giggling) and Education to the Core has a list of their top 20 games (and I promise, older students love to play games too!

  • Ask your kids/students to brainstorm some fun activities they could do once their work is finished or even as a reward for positive behavior.

The second thing we can do is build in opportunities to rest each day. Yes, there is a lot to do but, honestly, that to-do list will be completed in a much better mood if you take a moment to breathe. Rest can be a 2-minute breathing exercise, a break from the normal routine or getting to bed earlier.

  • When transitioning between activities, introduce “brain breaks,” short time periods (2-5 minutes max) where you and your students can engage in breathing exercises, stretching, or putting your heads down and turning off the lights. We Are Teachers has a fantastic list of fun brain break activities.

  • Build in “flex time” to your units/weeks. Once students have completed the required work (or chores), offer specific rest-based choices they can engage in: coloring, listening to music, checking out an approved YouTube video, or putting their head down and taking a quiet moment.

  • Restructure your morning and evening routines to allow for a little extra rest each day. Even getting to bed 10 minutes earlier can help. Having trouble falling asleep? Healthline offers a list of 20 tips for falling asleep fast and the Sleep Foundation has a great list of ways to quiet the nightly noise so you can fall asleep fast.

The third thing we can do is make space to be creative. While our routines serve the purpose of helping us remain efficient, they also preclude creativity. They allow us to turn on autopilot and move through our days which at first offers relief, but eventually becomes draining.

  • Try out a new hobby, and encourage your students/kids to as well. While it may seem counterintuitive to make space in an already over-full schedule to try something new, I have found that having a break from the usual to engage my brain in new ways is just what I need to rejuvenate me to continue grading, planning, and managing a household. SkillScouter has a great list of calming hobbies for educators (these will work for students and parents too!)

  • Allow students to express mastery of a standard or material in a creative way. Using free sites like Canva gives students the opportunity to create from scratch or one of their thousands of templates to express a concept (this is great for group work too!). There’s also the option of brainstorming potential projects with students who can become really creative! I once had a student create a summary of every act of Romeo and Juliet in picture form on a quilt.

  • Build creative problem-solving opportunities into your curriculum. Have students identify school, industry, or community business issues and create solutions. You can have them incorporate language arts. Mathematics (finances especially), civics, and even languages (for multicultural communities) in their presentations. As a bonus, invite community business leaders, administrators into your classroom or share the students; presentations with them (they can even make a video).

  • At home, invite your children to problem-solve the issues your family faces: Time constraints, finances, and house management issues can all be sources of creative problem solving.

Whether you are an Educator, Student or Parent, October can feel like a rough month, but it doesn’t have to be! Using any one of the suggestions above can help you not only survive, but thrive!

Did you try any of these activities? I’d love to hear all about it! Drom me an email at or check in on social media (Instagram and Facebook; EdCoachStephHaynes, LinkedIn: Stephanie Haynes, ACC.)


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