How to Survive the Second Half of the School Year. Rainbow background with words: How to Survive the Second Half of the School Year

How to Survive the Second Half of the School Year

December 31, 2020 17 min read

Welcome to today’s episode, where we are going to be going explore ideas on how to survive the second half of the school year. I will discuss changes I am going to make. Then I will lead you through ten quick and easy ways to relieve stress right in your classroom. And you can do them in one minute or less!

Teachers, students, families…everyone is in an impossible situation this school year. Even with countless extra hours in the spring, over summer break and the fall to pivot in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, more changes keep happening almost weekly. Everyone is exhausted!

I totally respect the teachers who have retired early or switched careers during this time. Each person and family needs to do what is right for them in light of their circumstances. But for those of you, like me, who are still teaching full-time, we have to reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t, and make some changes in order to not burn out. Each of us has to figure out how to survive the second half of the school year.

I am hopeful that with these ideas, we can lower our stress levels and do better than last semester.

For the second half of this year, I am going to simplify everything I can. Now is the time to be a balanced teacher focusing on time management. I am going to give myself permission to NOT create a bunch of new activities or interventions that I must use this week, which is just pressure I put on myself. It will be okay to redo something I’ve already done and not change it totally up…. unless doing so gives me joy and I have the time.

It is important to do self-care activities to keep your sanity during this COVID 2020-21 school year. (This is especially important since we are only halfway through the school year as I write this.) In fact, I believe this is a simple but overlooked way to combat burnout. I know, it seems too simple, but it really does work.

I strive to equip you with teacher-tested strategies so I’ve tried to make the ideas in this episode an experience so all you have to do is listen. This episode is unique in that I am going to actually lead you through all ten quick and easy ways to relieve stress right in the episode! I will describe each activity, then we will do it.

All you need is your body and a piece of paper and something to write with. (If you are listening while driving, you can still benefit if you only listen and don’t do the activities).

Then, in the midst of a stressful school day, you can use these ideas by just stopping and doing one of the activities for one minute…even 30 seconds if that is all you have. Better yet, you could invite your para-educators or even students to join you! (I plan to upload the activities broken into individual audio clips over the Facebook group.)

If you are overwhelmed with stress, please reach out to a crisis counselor. Just text CONNECT to 741741 to get help and encouragement.

Episode 24 Show Notes

Resources and Links

More ways to relieve stress

The podcast episode focuses on ways you can relieve stress in one minute or less. Below are things you can do for five minutes to relieve stress (at home or maybe in your class before school or during recess).

  • Listen to calming music
  • Have a good cry. Seriously!
  • Chat with a friend or co-worker.
  • Sing out your favorite song
  • Make a list of happy things you are going to do tonight, this weekend, etc.
  • Watch a cute/funny YouTube video (i.e. cute puppies)
  • Just step outside and practice your breathing.
  • Take a gratitude walk (down the hall, around the building, on a treadmill, etc.)
  • Make a cup of tea or coffee.
  • Look up and gaze at a nature photo (snow scene, ocean, etc).
  • Pray or meditate.

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and resources/links provided on this podcast are that of each guest and do not always represent the views of this podcast or the host. In addition, each listener is encouraged to research all strategies, lessons, curriculum, etc. before using them with students to be sure they are in line with their beliefs, their school district policies, etc.

About the Host

Lisa Goodell, helping to assemble robot kits for Texas students.

Lisa Goodell, M.A., launched the “Help for Special Educators” Podcast on April 1, 2019. She has taught for over 24 years, including third grade, resource/inclusion (RSP), and mild/moderate self-contained (SDC). Currently, she is an itinerant orthopedic impairment (OI) specialist/teacher for students birth to 21 years old in all general ed and special ed settings.

Lisa has a master’s degree in special education and six special ed and general ed teaching credentials. She has been honored as “Teacher of the Year” at both the elementary (2014) and secondary level (1994). She lives in rural Central California with her family and a bunch of cats. Connect with Lisa here.

Check out her TeachersPayTeachers store, “Lisa Goodell.” You can also get more information by listening to the beginning of Episode 1.

Check out other Podcast Episodes

Transcript: How to Survive the Second Half of the School Year*



Episode 24: How to survive the second half of the school year


Do you ever find yourself barely able to hold your head above water? Waves of IEPs, data collection, assessments, parent conferences, not to mention lesson plans and seasonal activities are all crashing around you. You need help but not just from anybody. Grab the lifeline that is the Help for Special Educators Podcast. We will equip you with creative solutions and teacher-tested strategies so you can navigate the rewarding but difficult job as a special ed teacher. This is Lisa Goodell, your host.


Going into the rest of this school year, I have learned that I need to protect my mental health, physical health, and spiritual health. Work can not take up 14 or more hours a day. And it might even be more if you count all the time you spend looking at social media, blogs or Pinterest looking for new ideas or technology hacks.

You see, I noticed something after Thanksgiving break. I didn’t do anything for work that whole week. And the next week back at school was just as stressful as the week before break. But I found that I was dealing with everything better. I didn’t have as much brain fog. I realized that things got done a little bit faster when I wasn’t so worried. When something came up, I gave grace to the other person, and I started to give myself grace.

This year of all years, I am learning to let go, and not try to do every last thing. Yes, the IEPs need to get done, but done is better than perfect in a school year like this. I am learning to say no to things that I’d normally say yes to. I am protecting my time out of school and plan to fill time with soul-nourishing activities. But how I keep that attitude going in the Spring when we are back in the thick of things, when you are at that point when you feel your blood pressure rising with the hard ugly pandemic things?


Now we each have a list of the hard ugly pandemic things in our heads. I want to be clear those things don’t include our precious students! Most of us miss teaching our kids in person in the pre-pandemic way the most!  That is the reason we went into teaching.  It is all the other changes and stuff that are too much, such as…  Honestly, I started to write some examples, and I could feel my blood pressure rising. So I’m not going there. If you’re listening to this is 2021 you know what I mean. And, if you listen to this in the future and don’t know what I mean…I am so happy that there is someone in the future that doesn’t know about all the hard ugly parts of pandemic teaching that we have gone through and that all that is in the distant past! 

So back to it being when we are back in the thick of teaching and your blood pressure starts to rise… I know what I was doing last semester in that type of situation was not helpful. And I have to make changes for the beginning of January.

I am going to share some simple… I am mean they only take 1 minute – 60 seconds of your time … self -care strategies you can get started with today even. I will not claim that any of them are things you’ve never heard before…but even if you’ve heard each idea before, I hope that at least one or two ideas click with you and that you commit to trying them this week.

As you listen, make a list. Screenshot it. Put it on sticky you keep on the edge of your laptop or on your bathroom mirror. Make it into a poster for your whole class to see.

I really think the key to keeping our sanity, our love for our jobs, and career is to nourish ourselves for the second half of the school year. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others and not burn out. So many teachers are not even making to the second half of the school year. Many have already had to bow out, and I don’t want to be one of them. So please join me as we get into all these one-minute self-care ideas.


Now stress and anxiety are not just in our minds. It will show up in our bodies as well, either in the short-term or definitely in the long-term. So first think about how your body feels when you’re stressed and think about how people describe their stress. You might say you feel wound up. There might be physical tension somewhere in your body. Common places might be in your neck, your back, your stomach, your chest or heart area. You might also feel emotional strain or anxiety.

Now, according to a 2018 Gallup survey, the top 10 countries where people say they are the most stressed are these (and I’m going to list them all because I’m grateful to have listeners from all over the world from over 50 countries. So your country might be on this list.) Here they are:

Number ten, Rwanda.

Number nine, Costa Rica.

Number eight, Uganda.

Number seven, United States.

Number six, Sri Lanka.

Number five, Iran.

Number four, Albania.

Number three, Tanzania.

Number two, the Philippines.

And number one, Greece. A quote from the article is this, “The majority of Americans, (55% in 2018) said they had experienced stress a lot during the day. Nearly half (45%) said they felt worried a lot. And more than one in five, (which was actually 22%) said they felt anger a lot.” Now I bet the percentages are higher around the world with Covid in 2020. So I think everyone can benefit from this episode, whether you are a teacher or not.


Now, if you live in the least places in the world that have stress like Iceland, New Zealand, Austria or Switzerland, maybe you need to contact me. You can be a guest on the show and we can talk about why it may be that your country (and I assume also teachers in your country) might have less stress. That might be a really interesting follow-up episode!  (Us Americans have a lot to learn in this area, and I am no expert. I get stressed like anyone else!)

You can do the activities I am about to show you on your own… if you are remote working from home and you find yourself sitting in front of the computer all day, or you can do it while you doing a remote lesson with your class, or in-person, or the craziness of hybrid learning…

I’ve been trying to come up with ideas that are very, very simple. I was in a workshop earlier this school year, dealing with self-care and the leader talked about, sometimes we get overwhelmed by thinking we’re not doing self-care, meaning we haven’t gone on a jog for half an hour, or we haven’t done this, that or the other for a long concentrated period of time. And she wanted to tell us that really just moving your body literally for one minute can really help the stress.


So what I thought I do today is instead of just going through a list and talking and describing these things that I’m going to describe it. But then I’m also going to give you one minute of some calm ambient music to actually do it. And these are very simple. So they are things that you can do anywhere.

Maybe there’s a few you can’t do if you’re driving, but if you can’t do them, you can still just enjoy the music. So I do encourage you to try out the strategies. Research says we actually have to practice things, not just talk about them. So you can listen through this now. So you know what to expect if you want to try some later, but if you can, at all, I encourage you to do it with me.

Maybe you even want to break up this episode into parts, like set a timer to go off every hour today. And when it goes off, stop what you’re doing and play the next section of this episode, which will only be like two minutes for each section. But of course, I want you to make it work for you and your schedule. Also, if you are working in your classroom and you have staff with you like paraprofessionals, you might invite them to try some of these activities. It might be kind of fun to be connected with another person as you do it. But you know your situation, you know, your student population in your co-workers, and I will let you figure out what the best ways to do it.

So each section will be about two minutes long. I will describe it at first and then I will play some quiet ambient music for about one minute while we do it. And at the end of the episode, I will have some more comments. So if you somehow want to skip to the comments, now, then you might want to do that.


All you need for these activities is just your body. A piece of scratch paper and something to write with. So here are 10 ways to lessen your anxiety during the school day or any time.

So the first activity is going to be simply breathing. First, you’re going to be still wants you to bring your attention to your breathing. Are you already calm or have you been doing something really active where you are either physically or mentally more excited? If so, try to quiet your body. Try to calm yourself down a little bit. You might move your shoulders up when you inhale and let them relax down on the exhale.

So let’s go ahead and start now. Inhale. And exhale. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Well done. I hope you’ve already noticed a little bit of difference. You can always repeat this whenever you want.


Activity two is going to be stretching. So if you’re able, I invite you to stand up. You might want to stretch just for a second. Um, just briefly, wiggle your feet. You might want to even take off your shoes for this, make yourself comfortable. Roll your shoulders slowly forward a few times, and then backwards a few times. Now pay attention to your neck, turn to the side and hold. Now, turn to the other side and hold now, put your chin down on your chest and lean your head back. Remember to breathe and now lean forward again, and then rotate your head around slowly two times. And after you do that, then you’re going to roll it around the other way, two times.

And the last thing is to stretch our arms out, starting at your hands at your side, raise them up slowly, all the way until they’re reaching to the sky and then touch your palms together and bring them down slowly to your chest. And if you have time, repeat that one more time. You can sit back down if you’d like.


Activity three… the next activity I’m going to give you is simply one minute to daydream. So just close your eyes and I’m going to be quiet for one minute and I’ll play the music so you can just think some happy thoughts.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]

Okay, it’s been one minute. I hope your daydream stayed happy. If you do this in real life, without listening to this episode, you might send an alarm so you don’t take too long or forget to stop.

The next few activities use paper and pencil or pen or something to write with. So first take out your paper and fold it in half. Now you need four sections. So you could have two on the front and two on the back. So draw a line where you made the fold. So you have four sections.


Activity four, so for this activity, you’re going to take the paper and pen or whatever you have and just do some doodling. You can scribble draw some repeated shapes like triangles or circles. You can practice your cursive, draw animals, whatever you want to do for the next minute.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]


Activity five. For this next activity, I want you to acknowledge some things you have accomplished today, no matter how small… You did get out of bed. You are breathing. You are alive. There’s three right there! Write some other things that you have accomplished today.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]


Activity six, For this next activity, we’re going to take a break from the writing exercises. And I want you to take one minute to just look out the window. What do you see? If you’re outside already, then just look around. Maybe you can do some people watching or nature watching. And if you are not near a window, you might just close your eyes. Imagine you’re outside the building you are at, or a special place that you like to hang out.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]


Activity seven. This time you’re going to write down names of people that bring you happiness and joy, people you appreciate. And you can also write down one little reason why it could be for big things, or it could be for little things.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]


Activity eight… For this activity, you are going to give yourself compliments. You’ve already written down things that you’ve done today. You’ve written down names of other people and why you appreciate them. So now take one minute and write down a few things that you appreciate about yourself. I know that sometimes this is hard, but you can do it. It’s only one minute.

[Ambiant music plays for about 1 minute.]


Activity nine. If you have pets, go and spend one minute with your pet. If you don’t have a pet, maybe you can quickly look up cat videos or cute puppy videos, or look at some pictures on a Google search really fast.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]


And here’s the last activity…activity ten. For this one, you can choose to write it, or you might just choose not to. It’s kind of up to you. But for this one, I suggest that you spend one minute in prayer or have a time of silence, say a mantra, or really whatever your spiritual practice is. If you don’t have a spiritual practice and want to try one, just say, or write, “God, please help me. Or “God, please help me with ______________,” and then finish the sentence.

[Ambient music plays for about 1 minute.]


Now all of these activities can be done for a longer period of time. Two minutes might be ideal to do, but I only did one minute for this podcast. But just remember even 30 seconds or a minute is better than nothing at all, and will help you physiologically. I do have a list of more activities that I didn’t go over here. So if you’d like to get those, go to the show notes. The list has things that you can do in five minutes. Go to

As I was doing some research for this episode, there was something about talking to a crisis counselor. If you are really stressed, by all means, you should take advantage of any services are being given at this time to reach a crisis counselor. You can text the word CONNECT to 741-741. Again, I’ll say the word that you text is “connect” C O N N E C T to the number 741 741. You don’t have to deal with any of this alone.


I don’t know if my listeners usually listen to the very end of each podcast episode or not. However, the ending to each show does have built in a modified version of this de-stressed time, where I try to help people to remember, to take a minute, to breathe, try to focus on your breathing and just go through a couple of things to help de-stress yourself and bring some calmness to your day. So if you don’t usually listen all the way to the end, you might want to do that today. [That begins at 26:39 of this recording.]

So I’d like to know what activity you are trying today, and if you like accountability you can go to our Facebook group, Help for Special Educators Podcast. Let me know! You can also post it on Instagram. [My account is @lisagoodellequip.] We can help ourselves get rid of some stress, just one minute at a time every day.

So thank you so much for listening and talking to your friends about the show. You can find the show notes for this episode and all the others at LISAGOODELL.COM/PODCAST. I would also ask that if you have listened to one or two episodes (or more) of the show, would you please go into Apple Podcasts and leave a review for the show. It would mean so much and it would really help get this podcast out to more people.


Now when I start to get stressed or overwhelmed about school stuff, I find it helps to take a moment to slow down, stop and focus on my breathing. Sometimes I also might say the Serenity Prayer aloud or in my head, here it is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I might also add a few of my own words. Here’s the sample for us special educators: Help us to listen and truly understand our students. Please give us words, actions, and solutions, which will help in difficult situations. May our classrooms be peaceful places where teachers, staff, and students learn and thrive. After that, I try to go out and find someone else to help because helping others keeps me from selfishly dwelling on my own problems.

Thank you so much for listening and I hope you heard something helpful during this episode that you can implement in your teaching. Remember, you are amazing! What you do makes a difference and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Go find someone else to encourage because they probably need to be reminded that they are amazing, too.

[28:08] Ending music

[Recording ends at 28:34]

*Note: An artificial intelligence transcription service converted the audio file of this podcast episode into the written words below. The file is mostly accurate, however, be aware that spoken words and conversations are not the same as a conversation in a novel. This means that will be some inaccuracies or accidental errors (i.e. missing punctuation, missing words, etc.). I do proofread it and correct some things, but thank you for your patience and grace since I’m sure there are parts that the AI and I both miss.

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