It’s okay. You’re not the only one who gets a little nervous when the back to school ads start rearing their head. I’ve been in education for more than two decades and I still get nervous this time of year. And I am pretty sure that we are not alone. In fact, I think we’re in good company.
But don’t worry. I’ve got some strategies that are going to help you (us) roll into this new year like a boss. And by boss, I don’t mean the person in charge. No, I am referring to someone who is confident and self-assured. So, here we go. I promise, we got this!
I’m Doing Something New
Maybe you are teaching a new grade level. Maybe you are teaching a new subject. Or maybe, just maybe (like every other year), the content standards have changed. Understandably, this has you a bit worried. I get it. I’d be worried too. But guess what?
This isn’t the first time you’ve been faced with something like this. And do you remember what happened last time? You made it. Yes, it was intimidating at first. But you and your team put your heads down and figured it out. Even if you were by yourself, you reached out and asked for help; from a colleague in a different school, from your PLN or maybe you found help in the form of a book or article. No matter what, remember this—you’ve done it before and you’ll do it again.
Ok, I’m about to let you in on a secret. Now, my fellow administrators may not like what I am about to say and they may disagree and I don’t really care because this is about you. The Teachers. Here it is; you know your subject area, skills and content better than we do. What did he just say? How dare him! I am the lead learner in my building.
BS. I never have liked that term.
Everyone in the building is learning. Not just the principal and assistant principal. And we sure as heck aren’t the lead learners. Yes, as one of the leaders of the building and someone charged with the responsibility of evaluating teachers, it is my job to learn as much as I possibly can about as much as I possibly can. But I never forget that you, the Teachers, are the experts.
Why am I up on my soap box saying all of this?
Because far too often, teachers stress and worry that we, the administrators, are going to come in your room and catch you teaching something wrong or notice that you forgot to cover a particular standard. BS. Wow, I’ve cursed twice in one article. Well technically, I didn’t curse. But…
We are in your room to support you and the students. And to be honest, during those first few weeks we just want you to know that we have your back and we’re there if you need us. So, please please please, don’t fret if you’re not absolutely certain how to best teach this standard or that indicator. I can promise you, we don’t either, but rest assured, we’ll be there to support you while you figure it out.
I’m Not Mentally Prepared to Go Back to Work
Summer break is awesome. You get to sleep in, chew your lunch before swallowing and stay up late binge-watching all the shows you missed during the school year. You’ve gotten into a routine you love that you wish could last forever. Trust me, I have taken more naps this summer than I ever have in my life. They have been glorious. You know, the kind of nap where you wake up and you don’t know if it’s morning, evening or sometimes, the middle of the night.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that you are still busy in the summer, whether it’s working a second job, teaching summer school or attending professional development. But there is just something about the summer that makes us happy and gives us that sense of chill that can only be had in June, July and August.
But, right about now is the time you start counting the days until you have to report back to work. Whether you are down to single digits or you’re about a month away, the countdown has begun. And it’s easy to let what’s ahead, distract and take away from what is now. Kind of like worrying about a Monday on a Sunday. I get it and I’ve got a way to trick your brain.
Think back to the school year. Remember how awesome weekends are? Yes, we are allowed to love Fridays and the weekends. And no, that doesn’t mean we hate our job. It just means we are human and enjoy a little time off.
Ok, back to the Jedi-Mind-Trick.
- Count how many days of summer break you have remaining.
- Divide that number by two.
- That is how many weekends you have left.
- For example, if you have 12 days left then you have the equivalent of 6 weekends.
Trust me, this works. I play this trick on my brain during Winter Break, Spring Break and even Thanksgiving. Doesn’t 6 weekends sound a lot better than 12 days. You know it does. So, relax and enjoy the weekends you have left. You can thank me later. But remember, don’t let your brain in on this little secret. Because as a little green guy once stated, “Do or do not. There is not try.”
I’m Not Sure My Body is Ready
I realize that teaching is not a sport and days go by when you may not even leave your classroom, except to go to the bathroom. Then why is it that teachers are physically exhausted after teaching a full day?
It’s not uncommon for you to track 10,000 to 15,000 steps during the course of a day. This coupled with the fact that your brain is working the entire time you are stepping. Combine the two and you have a recipe for complete and utter exhaustion.
Nevermind the fact that you may have to get up and down on the floor many times a day, monitor lunch and/or recess duty which requires constant vigilance and supervise after school activities that go well into the evening. It’s no wonder you feel like you’ve competed in a Spartan Race by the time they get home. You’re beat down!
Oh, and the fact that you’re exposed to multiple students who are sick everyday can’t bode well for your immune system. So, it is not uncommon for you to catch whatever it is your students have (cold, flu, etc.) and keep it for what seems like weeks. Then you have the near impossible task of trying to get healthy while continuing to be exposed to thousands of germs and viruses.
It is for the reasons above that you need to be physically ready when the students return. Work out a little bit each day. By the way, don’t convince yourself that if you can’t spend 30 minutes to an hour exercising then it’s not worth it. A little bit each day is all that you need. Trust me, I’ve tried this approach and I am in the best shape I’ve been in in the past twenty years.
You’ll be fine gradually getting yourself ready for that first day back. Don’t go the gym and push yourself so hard that you can’t get out of bed the next day. Don’t try some crazy new diet that leaves you starving and angry all the time. And please don’t start waking up early just to get your body used to it. That’s crazy talk. Sleep as much as you can while you can. It’s probably the most important thing you can do for your body.
You Got This
So, what do you think?
I know. I know.
Summer break is awesome. And I’m still anxious and a little bit nervous even though I have all these “amazing” ideas for easing some of the opening day jitters. But just remember; you know your stuff, you got plenty of time left and your gonna sleep in tomorrow.
And, if after all this you’re still feeling a bit nervous, well guess what?
You’re in good company.
The Night Before Tomorrow – a piece about the anxiety we sometimes feel the night before work
I Worry Less – a piece about acknowledging that we all make mistakes
The Kitchen Sink – a piece that describes a technique I use to relieve stress
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