Five Tips for a Successful Back to School (For Teachers)
Sports fans know the feeling. A new “season” is rich with the unknown, opportunities, and change that stimulates us! Back to School is sort of the New Year’s Day in the education world. It’s a blank slate ready for new opportunities. After several years of teaching and “grinding,” I finally realized the appropriate analogy of a school “season” as being that of a marathon. Summertime is such a crucial time for teachers, admin, parents, and children to recharge the batteries to prepare for the next “grind.” As the marathon begins, remember to establish some habits that are going to help you make it through successfully! Remember that all of us are adjusting and getting back into the routine will take some time.
What does the back to school season look like for teachers? Hustle. We know all about the growing list of things to do. Back to school time comes every year and the stress levels of teachers, admin, parents, and children are rising after a summer of relaxed schedules, vacations, sleeping in, and “doing you”.
Does anyone else get the back to school “goonies” when you are excited for the new year but seem to toss and turn away those last few hours of precious sleep? You need to sleep. You want to sleep. But you can’t. My wife can attest to the fact – that for ten years, I slept horribly for the week before, during, and after each beginning of a new school year. So I say to you, do everything you can to make sure you are getting adequate sleep. Invest in a new pillow or comforter, get a fan or sound machine, put down the phone an hour before bed (I recently started charging my phone in another room and it has made such a difference!), stay away from caffeine in the evenings, grab some essential oils (lavender works wonders) and get to bed at a decent hour! Turn your teacher brain off and relax. What is most important will get done. You will be so much more productive during the day and have a clear mind if your body has the proper rest.
The first day back for teachers is sort of like a family reunion. A little awkward at first. Slightly intimidating for some (introverts, unite!). Annoying when your schedule is already filled to the brim. However, a school is a community and hopefully, like a well-connected family. So, my second tip is to put on your butterfly costume. Flex some social muscles and become a social butterfly for just a bit. It is essential to building the beginning of what this year’s marathon will be like. You need help to make it. Don’t isolate yourself to try to get more done. Heal any political wounds. Communication is the salve for any rear-view conflicts. Invest time with your team. Communicate effectively. Time spent is not time wasted – remember that. Keep your classroom door open at times. I found myself with a closed door all the time- too often worrying, laboring, and committing to the things that weren’t as important as the relationships. We are given two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth. Let’s remember to listen and watch more than we speak. Seize the moments that matter...the positive relationships! However, when it is time to get the hustle going, shut the door, remove your butterfly wings, and tackle that to-do list.
Tip #3: remember to build a partnership with parents for the long term. Send home a copy of this back to school parent survey to let parents know that you are ready to begin a partnership. Call them during the first two weeks (on a positive note) on your drive home. Let them know you care. It will make all the difference.
Meal prep is my tip #4 for starting the school year successfully. Seriously. If you still have a few weeks left in your summer, go early in the morning when meat departments have yesterday’s meat marked down. Google or search Pinterest for a few winning recipes and batch double or triple the amount for your family. This can cut down on one stress and keep you from eating out as often. Bonus points if there’s leftovers for lunch a couple of days!
My final tip is the most important! Remember your WHY. Why do you teach? Focus on connecting with students and creating a positive relationship with them. At the end of the marathon of the school year, it won’t matter how “Pinterest” decorated your room was, what last year’s teacher thought about the student on your roll, what your colleagues are stressing over, how your admin ignored your email, or if all of your forms were laid perfectly straight on the desks. What will matter is your relationships with your students and what you were able to learn from each other through your journey together. Make and keep copies of your class list handy. Challenge yourself to invest individually in each student at least once each week. You can do this by spending two minutes talking with them one-on-one without being uninterrupted (hallway, lunch, recess, during class change, etc.). Give them eye contact. Give a genuine compliment. Challenge them to something you know they can accomplish. Tell them you believe in them. They crave your attention and look up to you so much. Prioritize the relationship. The rest will come!