For many teachers, the first part of the year brings an array of emotions, from excitement and optimistic anticipation to flat out anxiety and fear.
Especially if you’re not a fan of the unknown, it’s scary to peer over the edge of a gorge full of untold future experiences. Your students may still feel like a list of names at the moment. Or you aren’t feeling settled into a routine. Maybe you’re teaching something totally new, throwing off your groove from years prior.
Whatever feelings you are dealing with, there are some steps you can take to start the school year great, establishing a rapport with your students and healthy habits to keep up your stamina as you lean into a new year.
- Prioritize your physical health. This sounds so basic, but it’s easily forgotten in the madness of the start of the school year. With the risk of sounding like a stereotypical mom, please take this advice to heart…
- Do something physical as often as you can. Find something you enjoy: go for a walk, take a hike, or hit a yoga class. A school secretary I worked with would walk laps around the building after school every day. Whatever works!
- Every day, force yourself to stop at some point so that you get a good night’s sleep. I know this can be really difficult to do, but the more often you force it, the easier it will become.
- Eat breakfast every day to help with mood and energy. Even a protein shake on the way to school can hold you over.
- Grab a big cup of coffee (or whatever you drink in the morning).
- Keep snacks handy for that mid-morning energy slump.
- Hydrate! Drink lots of water throughout the day. If you hate plain water, get some liquid or tablet-style flavor additions to make it more enjoyable.
- Streamline your weekly schedule. This can be hard, especially if you have a family that you’re also taking care of. Ask for help when you need it. Divvy up household chores. Find other parents to take turns shuffling kids to/from practices or lessons. Get the family together to meal prep on the weekends. Use a grocery delivery service to help you run errands.(My grocery delivery service is my annual Christmas gift to myself, and it is SO worth it!)
Be ready for tomorrow when you leave today.
You’ll rest much better knowing you’re 100% prepared for the next day. (And sometimes you’ve just gotta take it one day at a time, honestly.) Go ahead and prep your board for the next morning before you leave. Have a backup plan in place for the unexpected technology fail, etc. Have your copies ready to go in a set place. All of this will also be a huge help if you end up unexpectedly absent.
The First Week(s)
- First impressions matter. Your students will remember how you make them feel at the beginning of the year. You want to immediately set the tone for your classroom, so think about what’s important to you and help your students feel that up front. Above all, your classroom should feel like a safe space to everyone who walks through that door.
- Fake it til you make it. Even if you’re not feeling super confident or ready on a given day, your students won’t know that unless you show it. Teachers actually become really great at this (which is probably part of why you’re always exhausted). Bonus - sometimes, if you fake confidence long enough, you’ll eventually feel it!
- Get to know your students’ personalities. You all want to get to know your kiddos as soon as possible; it makes all the difference in your day-to-day interactions. Try these ideas from our FREEsources library.
- Be compassionate. Your students are also experiencing a myriad of feelings and emotions as school begins. Some can hardly contain their excitement (and some literally cannot contain it). Others will feel some apprehension. You’ll have some who are fighting invisible battles–tough family situations, anxiety, learning challenges, etc. And you may even have some who feel relief upon entering the school building, the only place they feel safe. Give each of them the “OK” to feel what they feel, and ask them to just give you an open mind about this school year.
- Incorporate something fun when you can. Students often feel just as overwhelmed as you do. So squeeze in something fun when possible - could be a class game or a brain break to lighten the mood and let them (and you) breathe a little.
So take a deep breath, teachers, trust your instincts and your expertise, and start the school year great!
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