Cue the Jaws music… It’s coming! Picture this: the first day of a new school year is approaching. All the feelings are flooding in! If you’re wrapping up summer vacation, I hope that you got some much-needed rest and relaxation. But I also know (from experience!) that even if you had the best summer, realizing that it’s ending and it’s time to think about going back to school can feel jarring and stressful.
In this blog post, I’ll share some things I’ve done to avoid the back-to-school “scaries” (aka feelings of being overwhelmed about the imminent start of school) and how to feel excited about going back to school instead!
Tips for Feeling Ready to Go Back to School
I want to preface all of these tips by saying that it’s totally okay to feel hesitant about and even dread heading back to school.
The work you do is hard. Feeling reluctant about returning doesn’t make you a bad teacher in any way shape or form – it’s totally natural. Personally, I really struggled with these feelings for years of my teaching career, to the point where I wasn’t sleeping much during the entire back-to-school season! So rather than making yourself feel worse because you’re dreading back to school, show compassion to yourself and accept your feelings for what they are. As my grandmother used to say, “This, too, shall pass!”
The tips I’m about to share will help you ease the transition and get excited about the new school year. But there’s one other strategy that really helped me: focusing on my students’ and their parents’ feelings, rather than on my own feelings.
Kids also struggle with the transition of heading back to school. If you happen to teach Kindergarten, they may be spending time away from their parents for the very first time. That’s hard! So when I’m feeling anxious about the first day, or back-to-school night, it helps me to refocus on the feelings of my students and their parents, and on helping to ease their anxiety.
So take a deep breath and dive into these tips. You’ve got this!!
Tip #1: Be a lifelong learner!
I am 100% on board with teachers just having time to stop, put teaching to the side, and relax during their months off. What I also know, however, is that teaching is an ever-changing profession! Even things you may have learned during college or from a few years ago could be outdated. There is constant educational research being done on best practices.
While I don’t want you to spend every single day reading books about teaching or watching educational videos, I do encourage you to choose one book or course. This usually reinvigorates your feelings of learning something new and can excite you about using a new practice in the new school year!
Obviously, there are a ton of books, blogs, and videos out there! If you’re in need of a course that is self-guided and you can move at your own pace, I do have one called Implementing the Science of Reading in K-2: Blueprint for Your Structured Literacy Block that will get you excited about implementing the Science of Reading in your classroom!
Tip #2: Get together with other teachers!
When you’re getting ready to head back to school, it can be so good for the soul to reconvene with your fellow teachers! This may be a group of teachers from a previous school, a new school, the same grade, or a different grade. Being able to talk with people who can relate will (hopefully!) bring your anxiety level down a bit.
Whether you talk about school or non-school topics, having a community to turn to as you head back to school and then into the school year is super helpful.
Tip #3: Take advantage of opportunities you may have to connect with actual students.
Making connections with students is one of my favorite parts of going back to school. Although I’m a reading specialist now, I always vividly recall that feeling of being in my classroom before the first day of school – setting up the desks, looking over the curriculum, making copies, etc. Although some of these things brought me joy (I do love getting everything organized!), these tasks were missing something… actual little voices and faces!
If your school already hosts an open house or any other summer activities for families, I encourage you to stop by for a bit. Seeing students – whether past or present – can be so uplifting. If there isn’t an in-person option over the summer, you can always write letters or postcards to some of your past or upcoming students.
Making connections with students is a great reminder of our why – why you come to work each day, why you put in the hours, why you teach at all! Students see their teachers as such rockstars and can give you a positive energy boost!
Tip #4: Realign your work-home balance going into a new year.
One of the best ways to feel good about going into a new school year is to feel confident in the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. I know you adore your students, but I also know that you need to have a work-home balance.
Teaching is a crazy, time-consuming job in itself. You also have lots of other responsibilities at home, as well as things that you want to do for fun and to stay healthy!
As you enter into this year, I want you to think more carefully about whether an opportunity or activity is aligned with your goals, in and out of school. Here are a couple of blogs I’ve written on this topic that can help you to create that balance:
- How Saying NO Will Make You a Better, Happier Teacher
- How To Cut Down On Teacher Overwhelm by Simplifying
I hope some of this resonated with you! I’d love to hear from you in the comments – let me know what year you are entering for teaching, what grade(s) you’ll be working with, and how you are feeling about it! Hearing from other teachers and their perspectives always helps us all!