Sunday night teacher blues. It’s as real as our flair pens.
Yes, we love our students. Yes, once we’re in the swing of Monday, we’re happy we’re back (mostly.)
If you’re like the typical teacher, though, you wake on Sunday morning with a whisper of dread on the edge of your subconscious: “It’s almost over!” it whines. You push the meddlesome thought away, swing yourself out of bed, and do your thing. But as the day progresses, the Sunday night monster edges out of his corner like a thick mist, casting an ominous shadow on an otherwise pleasant day.
It’s not a productive cycle, is it? So how do we extricate ourselves from this negative spiral? How do we come back Monday morning with a spring in our step, excited for the new week? Is that even possible?
(Spoiler: Yes! Yes it is!)
Sunday night teacher blues: what does it mean?
To solve something, you first need to understand it. Just like evading the winter blues, one needs to be cognizant of the causes. Here is list of possible reasons why you may feel the Sunday night teacher blues. (Note: it may be a downer to read this list, but solving a problem requires confronting it head-on. Let’s face the monster together, gang!)
Reasons for those Sunday night teacher blues
- ungraded papers
- planning for school week
- food shopping /lunch prep
- less time with partner/kids/pets
- cleaning house/apartment
- you have low energy
- your classroom is a mess and you dread walking back into it
- piles of laundry to wash/dry/sort/fold/put away
- your own kids are not thriving at their own schools / you have a dread of that unhappiness cycle rebooting
- no more sleeping in until next weekend
- unfun Monday/weekly tasks awaiting
- your school is always too cold /too hot
- the weekend was so busy, you don’t feel rested. You need a weekend from your weekend.
- You didn’t do all the things you planned to this weekend.
- parent teacher conferences are coming up
- progress reports are due
- Back to School night is approaching and you’re not even close to being ready
- something in your classroom management is suddenly not working
- you have fallen way behind on giving effective feedback to your students
Moreover, most of us schedule all of our fun things on Friday night (it’s called Netflix) and on Saturday. Sunday, however is responsibility-and-catch-up day. No wonder it’s such a downer!
Nibbling away the Sunday night teacher blues
The easiest and most doable way to raise Sundays up on the happiness barometer is to chip away like Michelangelo at the causes of our unhappiness so your life turns into a work of art.
For example, using the list above, you might decide that cleaning the house is the biggest time-eater of your Sunday. Consider the solutions. First and most obvious, if you have the money, hire someone to come in once a week. Or twice a month. Or once a month. They can do some of that deeper cleaning that takes up time and effort. If such a move is not an option — and I’m with you on that; it’s not in the cards for me at present — then take a peek at some of the solutions to follow further down.
Ungraded papers? Reassess if you are giving effective feedback. Find an alternate time to grade in school and attach a note to your door/s: “Grading: please do not disturb” so your friendly colleagues don’t pop in during that time. Set your timer. Stay focused. As with everything, make it a game. How much of your weekend grading can you whittle away in this manner? See if you can beat your record each subsequent week.
Progress reports due? Work on a certain number at school every day. Make it a non-negotiable task. Something my past colleagues did that worked for them was to meet at Starbucks and do their reports together. That didn’t suit my style so I didn’t join, but it made all the difference to them and they truly enjoyed knocking off all their work together.
Low energy? Make an appointment with your doctor. Or experiment with different bedtimes. Drink more water. Start an exercise regime. Or drop an exercise regime. Play around a bit until you find the magic combination that gives you that needed boost.
Get laserlike focus on one of the causes of your Sunday night teacher blues and then brainstorm a few possible solutions. Maybe the first one won’t work. Try another. Don’t give up. Send out a Facebook query to your friends and colleagues and ask how they’ve made improvements in that area. Ignore the naysayers and focus on solving this one small challenge.
Nibbling away at the causes of the Sunday night teacher blues won’t usually result in an immediate monumental change in your feelings about Sunday, but over time you will see a more permanent positive shift. Just try one or two simple tweaks each week and be patient. The cumulative change will be much stronger than if you did it all in one go and then burnt out.
Shuffle to Saturday
Flip the Sunday night teacher blues on its head and make Saturday morning your time to check the more undesirable chores off your list. Make a strong batch of coffee, throw on a favorite podcast or let’s-get-moving-playlist, and get cracking. So, for example, set the timer for ten minutes and see how much you can clean one room up in that short interval. When the timer goes off, move to the next room and do the same. In short order, your home will look and feel a heck of a lot better. Maybe not perfect, but there’s way too much fun to be had on your weekend to worry about perfect, right?
Same goes for food prep, laundry, or grading. Get the undesirable chores done early and out of the way so you can enjoy the rest of your weekend, rather than dreading a finish line full of icky tasks.
My sister-in-law initially inspired me with this idea. For years now, she’s made early Saturday morning her just-do-it-habit to food shop for the week. The stores are almost empty of other customers, so it actually takes her less time than if she went later. And then, magically, that task is off her list. D-U-N, done.
Spread it out like cake frosting
Alternatively, you can spread the unenjoyable duties throughout the week, like thick chocolate frosting over a cooled cake. Taking our previous clean-the-house example, clean just one room per day. If you have children, it might be the perfect time to teach chores or up their chore-ante and have them do it with you. (And lest this latter move makes for a miserable atmosphere, transform it into an irresistible game. Play a favorite song and see how much you and your child can clean the room before the song is over.)
If time away from your kids has you down, plan one small thing you can do with them each evening. Read a book together. Work on a puzzle. Go for a walk. Look at the stars. Something small and doable that can take place every day and become a beloved habit.
Making your classroom plans ahead of time is easier after you’ve been teaching for a couple of years. In that first year, especially, most of us educators stay late each night to plan for the next day. (And know that this does get better, loves! Promise!)
Planning at least a week ahead, however, can do wonders for your peace of mind. If this unthinkable right now, try planning just one day ahead. Then two. Then gradually increase it until you have a few days of grace period. You will love yourself to pieces when you get to this point.
One grade level in our school stays late on Thursday and plans the following week together. They are like a hive of busy bees getting all the classwork and homework copied and gathering needed materials. They truly divide and conquer. Consider this option to save you time on the weekends.
Plan something fun for Sunday night!
Blow a raspberry at the Sunday night teacher blues, and plan something fun to do for the very end of your weekend. Think about what makes you happy. For me, it would be going to a bookstore with a set amount of money and then getting a hot cocoa at a nearby cafe. Or going to catch that movie I’ve been wanting to see and getting a monster tub of popcorn and a Cherry Coke.
For you, it might mean meeting your girlfriends at the nearest pub. Or going to an art museum. You could go walking down your city’s fanciest street and window shopping. Or going to an indoor water slide park. Or go sledding. Or picnicking at a local park. Or grabbing a great movie at your public library, ordering a pizza, and snuggling with your kids in front of the TV. Or going to a tapas bar with your beloved.
Think about what makes you feel young and giddy, no matter how trivial or silly it might seem to others. Do that. And, what’s more, have it planned at least a few days before so you have that delightful little prize awaiting you on Sunday night.
As a bonus, whatever your planned goody is, chances are that it’s not going to be something other people are doing, as most people don’t go out on Sunday. So no crowds! Haha! Look at you!
Make Monday morning fun for your students
Years ago I noticed that my students were dragging their feet on Monday mornings. I’d have to repeatedly go in the hallway and round them up so they could get their morning work done. It was always an effort, and since I, too, was grumpy and inwardly whiny, it made it doubly unfun. Then I thought, “Dang. Who can blame them? I have super boring tasks awaiting them. It’s Monday morning. Bleck.” So I changed up Monday morning so that it was intriguing!
You might open some fun centers in your classroom on Monday morning. Or display new books you’ve obtained for the classroom. (And tell them on Friday afternoon what kind of fun things will be awaiting them!)
Some days, we’ll have Movie Monday. When they walk in, there will be a short clip playing that I’ll set on a loop. It could be Bugs Bunny. It could be educational. Sometimes I have kids’ book reviews. Street art (the kids LOVED this one.) Art videos. Animated shorts. It’s an easy way to get kids into the classroom and happy to be there.
Games are a fun way to start the week. I started using these States/Capitals/Abbreviations Bump games and my kids LOVE them. They’re quick, easy, and the darned things WORK. They learn these states like nobody’s business. I’m about to introduce my new Phases of the Moon Bump game and am excited to see their faces when they find these on their desks come Monday morning.
You can make quick word searches and have those at the ready for their Monday morning work. (And if it’s near April Fools, you can try this word search, which will be just as much fun for you! It may be one of my favorite things to do all year…)
Have a lesson prepped for Monday that has you excited. The kind where you can hardly wait for the kids to come into the room because you know how much they will love it. Perhaps it’s a science experiment. Or a spelling lesson that uses shaving cream or sand on a tray. Something that will make the day fun for YOU too! This kind of energy is contagious. And your kids will gradually associate Monday mornings with fun! (Go on Pinterest for loads of ideas.)
Bypass the Sunday night teacher blues with Monday treats for YOU
Not only should the kids have something fun awaiting them — you should too! So often, we treat ourselves on Friday morning to celebrate the end of the week. We stop at Starbucks and get that fancy drink because — hey! — it’s Friday! But Friday is already awesome. Let yourself have a treat on Monday instead, when you can really use it. 🙂
Maybe there’s a homemade doughnut shop you can stop by on your way to work. Maybe you want to light a scented candle when you get to work — one that always puts you in a good mood. Or you can get your coffee all set to go on Sunday night so all you have to do is push a button when you wake. (And some of those super fancy coffee makers can even be set to start by themselves. (Oh modern day conveniences — you are so splendid!)
You could also download an audiobook you’ve been dying to read or that podcast you really really love and save it for your Monday commute to work.
Make sure you have something delightful awaiting YOU on Monday morning! You deserve a little pick-me-up to get your week off on the right foot. ‘Cause YOU are awesome.
Now let’s turn the microphone to you. In the comments below, tell us:
- How do you beat the Sunday night teacher blues?
- What strategies from this list will you try?
As always, if you found this information valuable, please share it on your favorite social media platform!
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