February: The Darkest Month

Winter SunsetDecember’s winter solstice ushers in longer days and welcome light. But in schools, February is darkest month.

Even as we celebrate the coming of the Magi, teachers are bracing for that long mid-winter slog to spring. According to Independent School Management, January through March is the low-point of the year for faculty morale. Fall’s possibilities have been replaced with harsh reality: a student or students who are struggling more than we might have hoped or imagined, or behaving less wisely than we might have hoped or imagined. The “new and improved” revealing unpredicted flaws. Just the hint of an untucked shirt-tail can turn even the saintliest of teachers into a Dickensian task-master.

And by now we also may have been touched by deep sorrows: the death of a student, teacher, or parent; the illness of a loved one; an unexpected tragedy. One or more of these have shaken us individually or collectively, leaving us drained or burdened.

Independent School Management notes as well that school culture is driven by faculty culture. If the faculty is not doing well, students will not do well, either. That’s why these hard months of January and February are an important time to check-in with the grown-ups in the building. It can be helpful just to recognize how we are feeling, how we are acting, and what we need to re-center ourselves.

Chaplains and school leaders can provide different opportunities for faculty self-care, keep an ear out for chronic negativity, and be mindful of colleagues who may be suffering or overwhelmed. Most of all, we can raise up and live into the life-giving mission of Episcopal schools: to honor the dignity of each person as a loved and beloved child of God, care for the spirit, and create space for the “still, small voice of God” amidst the dailiness of school life.